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THE  BOOK 


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Title 

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This  book  should  be  returned  on  or  before  the  date  last  markea  below. 


COMBINED     EDITION 


Modern  American  Poetry 
Modern  British  Poetry 


A  CRITICAL  ANTHOLOGY 


EDITE 


D  BY  Louis  Untermeyer 


HARCOURT,  BRACE  AND  COMPANY,  NEW  YORK 


MODERN   AMERICAN   POETRY 


A  Foreword 


TO   THE    SIXTH    REVISED  EDITION 


THIS  sixth  revision  of  Modern  American  Poetry  continues  the  plan  as 
well  as  the  direction  o£  the  preceding  editions.  It  goes  even  further 
than  the  fifth  edition  in  placing  its  emphasis  on  the  more  important 
poets  by  enlarging  their  groups  of  poems  and  emphasizing  their  con- 
tribution to  the  period.  The  notes  which  introduce  each  group  of  poems  and 
the  amplified  preface  have  been  brought  sharply  up  to  date.  The  volume  begins 
with  Walt  Whitman,  with  whom  modern  American  poetry  may  be  said  to  have 
begun,  but  it  includes  a  representation  of  the  latest  and  most  experimental  poets 
of  the  last  decade. 

It  is  impossible,  in  any  but  a  book  of  encyclopedic  proportions,  to  include  all 
the  interesting  figures  of  the  times.  Though  this  collection  indicates  the  range 
of  recent  American  poetry,  many  poets  have  been  omitted  from  these  pages. 
The  editor  regrets  the  cruel  stringency  of  space,  and  apologizes  to  those  (many 
of  them  his  friends)  whom  it  was  impossible  to  include.  The  table  of  contents 
must  speak  for  itself.  Some  of  the  poets  included  have  been  hailed  as  pioneers; 
some  have  provoked  controversy  and  have  changed  the  direction  of  contempo- 
rary art;  some  have  maintained  their  quiet  utterance  with  no  regard  what- 
soever to  warring  movements.  But  each  has  established  his  individuality  by  a 
unique  command  of  his  medium  and  a  strongly  pronounced  personal  idiom. 

It  has  already  been  implied  that  one  of  the  aims  of  this  collection  is  to 
express  not  only  the  national  range  but  the  diversity  of  recent  American 
poetry.  Yet,  although  the  compilation  is  fairly  inclusive,  it  is  (as  the  title  page 
indicates)  critical.  No  group  or  "school"  has  been  favored  at  the  expense  of 
another;  the  pages  presume  to  record  the  best  in  convention  as  well  as  the  most 
provocative  in  revolt.  The  object,  in  short,  is  to  present  a  panorama  in  which 
outstanding  figures  assume  logical  prominence,  but  in  which  the  valuable  lesser 
personalities  are  not  lost. 

It  is  here  that  debate  begins  and  choice  is  likely  to  be  arbitrary.  Never  before 
have  so  many  poets  distinguished  themselves  in  America;  never  before  has  even 
the  lesser  verse  been  on  such  a  level  of  competence.  In  the  quarter  of  a  century 
following  the  first  appearance  of  Poetry:  A  Magazine  of  Verse  in  1912  more 
than  one  hundred  magazines  have  devoted  themselves  exclusively  to  the  print- 
ing and  appraisal  of  verse.  The  rapid  multiplication  of  magazines  barely  sug- 
gests the  amount  of  verse  produced  in  the  forty-eight  states.  Every  major  city 
has  its  Poetry  Society  feverishly  competing  for  prizes;  every  county  has  its  local 
laureate.  A  rough  calculation  indicates  that,  in  the  twenty  years  covering  the 
"renascence"  of  American  poetry,  no  fewer  than  four  thousand  poets  had 
volumes  of  their  poetry  offered  for  public  sale.  This  figure  does  not  include 


vi  FOREWORD 

privately  printed  books  or  pamphlets  which  could  not  be  catalogued.  But, 
though  an  array  of  four  thousand  poets  in  any  one  period  may  be  sufficiently 
imposing,  this  number  gives  no  idea  of  the  armies  of  writers  who  have  whipped 
up  their  emotions,  girded  up  their  lines,  and  battled  for  the  crucial  adjective. 
It  is  safe  to  say  that  for  every  poet  fortunate  enough  to  emerge  from  the 
struggle  with  a  volume  or  two  to  his  credit,  there  were  ten  (the  number  is 
probably  nearer  fifty)  who  were  not  so  victorious  and  had  to  content  them- 
selves with  publication  in  magazines,  in  trade  journals,  and  in  the  poetry  corner 
of  the  local  newspaper.  Forty  thousand  poets  then.  But  wait.  It  is  fair  to  assume 
that  there  must  be  still  ten  times  as  many  who  have  chewed  pencils,  crumpled 
paper,  cursed  the  inadequacy  of  the  Rhyming  Dictionary,  and,  somehow,  got 
their  lines  to  fit  without  the  final  gratification  of  seeing  them  in  printer's  type. 
Four  hundred  thousand — a  thorough  search  would  probably  double  the  figure — 
four  hundred  thousand  poets  plying  their  difficult  trade  with  desperate  hope 
and  small  chance  of  reward. 

Selection  of  the  fifteen  or  twenty  "leading"  poets  is  not  so  difficult.  Almost 
everyone  will  agree  on  the  poets  whose  appearance  is  imperative  in  a  collection 
of  this  type.  It  is  when  one  goes  further  and  attempts  to  suggest  the  flux  and 
fecundity  of  the  period,  or  presumes  to  indicate  the  shape  of  things  to  come, 
that  differences  of  opinion  are  sure  to  arise.  Controversy  and  even  enmity  are 
likely  to  follow.  In  the  end  every  editor  is  driven  back  upon  that  mixture  of 
preference,  prejudice,  and  intuition  known  as  personal  taste — and  it  is  only 
rarely  that  he  can  escape  the  limitations  imposed  by  his  temperament  and 
training. 

That  inescapable  personal  factor  explains  the  method  of  editing  as  well  as 
the  manner  of  selection.  That  a  poem  has  appeared  in  various  anthologies  is 
no  proof  that  it  is  a  good  poem.  Nor  (in  spite  of  those  opposed  to  anthologies) 
is  such  publication  anything  against  it.  A  good  poem  remains  a  good  poem,  no 
matter  how  often  it  is  reprinted.  On  the  other  hand,  it  should  be  admitted  that 
where  there  has  been  a  choice  between  a  much-quoted  poem  and  one  which 
has  not  been  handed  on  from  one  anthologist  to  another,  the  editor  has — where 
both  poems  seemed  equally  worthy — favored  the  less  familiar  example. 

Although  humorous  verse  demands  an  omnibus  of  its  own,  its  presence  must 
be  felt  in  any  collection  which  presumes  to  reflect  a  period  of  growth.  If  the 
full  extent  of  American  humorous  verse,  from  wit  to  burlesque,  cannot  be 
shown  in  this  compilation,  its  changing  form  is  suggested  here  by  the  light 
verse  of  Bret  Harte,  Eugene  Field,  T.  A.  Daly,  Paul  Laurence  Dunbar,  Guy 
Wetmore  Carryl,  Franklin  P.  Adams,  Ogden  Nash,  and  (immodest  adden- 
dum) the  editor's  own  parodies. 

One  thing  remains  to  be  said.  Although  the  notes  as  well  as  the  number  of 
poems  selected  make  the  editor's  preference  obvious,  it  should  be  added  that  he 
has  attempted  to  make  each  poet's  group  rounded  and  representative.  To  ac- 
complish this,  not  only  the  early  but  the  most  recent  writing  of  the  contempo- 
raries appears  here — some  of  it  for  the  first  time  between  covers.  Wherever 
possible,  the  selections  as  well  as  the  authors  have  been  chronologically  ar- 
ranged; as  a  rule  the  earlier  work  is  placed  at  the  beginning  of  each  group,  and 
the  later  work  follows  in  approximately  the  order  in  which  it  was  written.  The 


FOREWORD  vll 

editor  is  greatly  indebted  to  most  of  the  living  poets,  not  only  for  invaluable 
data,  but  for  their  collaborative  assistance;  many  of  the  following  pages  embody 
their  choice  of  their  own  poems  as  well  as  the  editor's  preferences. 

Finally,  the  compiler  is  grateful  to  the  many  publishers  who  have,  in  every 
instance,  displayed  a  generosity  and  cooperation  without  which  the  successive 
editions  of  this  volume  would  not  have  been  possible.  This  indebtedness  is 
alphabetically  acknowledged  to  the  following  firms  and  agents,  holders  of  the 
copyrights: 

THE  ALCESTIS  PRESS — for  selections  from  Ideas  of  Order  by  Wallace  Stevens,  The 
Mediterranean  and  Other  Poems  by  Allen  Tate,  and  Thirty-Six  Poems  by  Robert 
Penn  Warren. 

D.  APPLETON-CENTURY  COMPANY,  INC. — for  selections  from  Going-to-the-Sun  and 
Going-to-thc-Stars  by  Vachel  Lindsay,  Merchants  from  Cathay  by  William  Rose 
Benet,  War  and  Laughter  by  James  Oppenheim,  and  Poems  of  People  by  Edgar 
Lee  Masters. 

BOBBS-MERRILL  COMPANY — for  selections  from  the  Biographical  Edition  of  The 
Complete  WorJ(s  of  James  Whitcomb  Riley,  copyright  1913,  reprinted  by  special 
permission  of  the  publishers. 

A.  AND  C.  BONI — for  selections  from  The  Janitor  s  Boy  and  Other  Poems  and  The 
Singing  Crow  by  Nathalia  Crane,  Tulips  and  Chimneys  by  E.  E.  Cummings, 
For  Eager  Lovers  by  Genevieve  Taggard,  and  Now  the  Sfy  by  Mark  Van  Doren. 

BOSTON  PUBLIC  LIBRARY — for  the  poem  by  Emily  Dickinson  beginning  "Because 
that  you  are  going"  in  the  Galatea  Collection,  first  published  in  The  Life  and 
Mind  of  Emily  Dickinson  by  Genevieve  Taggard  (Knopf). 

BRANDT  &  BRANDT — for  poems  by  E.  E.  Cummings  and  Edna  St.  Vincent  Millay. 

CURTIS  BROWN,  LTD. — for  two  poems  from  The  Bad  Parent's  Garden  of  Verse  by 
Ogden  Nash. 

JONATHAN  CAPE  AND  HARRISON  SMITH,  INC. — for  selections  from  Blue  Juniata  by 
Malcolm  Cowley. 

CowARD-McCANN,  INC. — for  selections  from  Compass  Rose  by  Elizabeth  J.  Coats- 
worth  and  Venus  Invisible  by  Nathalia  Crane. 

JOHN  DAY  COMPANY — for  selections  from  High  Falcon  by  Leonie  Adams. 

DECISION — for  a  poem  by  Marya  Zaturenska. 

THE  DIAL  PRESS — for  selections  from  Observations  by  Marianne  Moore. 

DODD,  MEAD  &  COMPANY — for  selections  from  Golden  Fleece  by  William  Rose  Bene*t, 
Lyrics  of  Lowly  Life  (Copyright  1896)  and  from  Lyrics  of  Love  and  Laughter 
(Copyright  1903)  by  Paul  Laurence  Dunbar,  by  permission  of  the  publishers, 
Dodd,  Mead  &  Company,  Inc. 

DOUBLEDAY,  DORAN  &  COMPANY — for  selections  from  Man  Possessed  and  Moons  of 
Grandeur  by  William  Rose  Bene*t,  In  Other  Words  and  Tobogganing  on  Parnassus 
by  Franklin  P.  Adams,  The  Man  with  the  Hoe  and  Lincoln  and  Other  Poems  by 
Edwin  Markham,  Trine ,  by  H.  Phelps  Putnam,  Tiger  Joy  and  John  Bwwn's  Body 
by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet,  and  Leaves  of  Grass  (Inclusive  and  Authorized  Edi- 
tion) by  Walt  Whitman. 

E.  P.  DUTTON  &  COMPANY — for  selections  from  Cry  of  Time  by  Hazel  Hall. 
FABER  AND  FABER,  LTD.  (London) — for  "JourneY  °f  the  Magi,"  "Animula,"  and  "A 


viii  FOREWORD 

Song  for  Simeon"  from  The  Ariel  Poems  by  T.  S.  Eliot,  with  the  permission  of 
T.  S.  Eliot. 

FANTASY — for  a  poem  by  Wallace  Stevens. 

FARRAR  &  RINEHART,  INC. — for  selections  from  Public  Speech  by  Archibald  Mac- 
Leish,  copyright  1936,  The  Fall  of  the  City:  A  Radio  Play  by  Archibald  MacLeish, 
copyright  1937,  and  A  Draft  of  XXX  Cantos  by  Ezra  Pound,  reprinted  by  per- 
mission of  Farrar  &  Rinehart,  Inc. 

FOUR  SEAS  COMPANY — for  selections  from  The  Charnel  Rose,  The  Jig  of  Forslin,  and 
The  Hbuse  of  Dust  by  Conrad  Aiken,  and  Sour  Grapes  by  William  Carlos 
Williams. 

HARCOURT,  BRACE  AND  COMPANY,  INC. — for  selections  from  A  Miscellany  of  Ameri- 
can Poetry:  1920,  American  Poetry:  A  Miscellany:  1922,  American  Poetry:  A 
Miscellany:  7925-1927,  The  Boo^  of  the  American  Negro,  Collected  Poems  by 
E.  E.  Cummings,  copyright,  1923,  1925,  1931,  1935,  1938,  by  E.  E.  Cummings, 
and  copyright,  1926,  by  Boni  &  Liveright,  Canzoni  and  Carmina  by  T.  A.  Daly, 
Behind  Dar\  Spaces  by  Melville  Cane,  Poems:  1909-7925  by  T.  S.  Eliot  and  Col- 
lected Poems  of  T.  S.  Eliot,  copyright,  1936,  Poems:  1930-1940  by  Horace  Gregory, 
copyright,  1941,  Land  of  the  Free  by  Archibald  MacLeish,  copyright,  1938,  The 
Noise  That  Time  Ma\es  and  Six  Sides  to  a  Man  by  Merrill  Moore,  Smo\e  and 
Steel  by  Carl  Sandburg,  Slabs  of  the  Sunburnt  West  by  Carl  Sandburg,  Good 
Morning,  America  by  Carl  Sandburg,  The  People,  Yes  by  Carl  Sandburg,  copy- 
right, 1936,  Food  and  Dnn\  and  Selected  Poems  and  Parodies  by  Louis  Unter- 
meyejr,  copyright,  1935,  by  permission  of  Harcourt,  Brace  and  Company,  Inc. 

HARPER  &  BROTHERS — for  selections  from  Sunrise  Trumpets  and  Cyclops'  Eye  by 
Joseph  Auslander,  Fables  for  the  Frivolous  by  Guy  Wetmore  Carryl,  Color  and 
Copper  Sun  by  Countee  Cullen,  Renascence  (Copyright  1917)  by  Edna  St.  Vin- 
cent Millay,  A  Few  Figs  from  Thistles  (Copyright  1922)  by  Edna  St.  Vincent 
Millay,  The  Buc^  in  the  Snow  (Copyright  1928)  by  Edna  St.  Vincent  Millay, 
Fatal  Interview  (Copyright  1931)  by  Edna  St.  Vincent  Millay,  and  Wine  from 
These  Grapes  (Copyright  1934)  by  Edna  St.  Vincent  Millay. 

HARVARD  ADVOCATE — for  "Asides  on  the  Oboe"  by  Wallace  Stevens. 

HARR  WAGNER  PUBLISHING  COMPANY — for  selections  from  The  Complete  Poetical 
Wor\s  of  Joaquin  Miller. 

HENRY  HOLT  AND  COMPANY — for  selections  from  A  Boy's  Will  by  Robert  Frost, 
North  of  Boston  by  Robert  Frost,  Mountain  Interval  by  Robert  Frost,  New  Hamp- 
shire by  Robert  Frost,  West-Running  Eroo\  by  Robert  Frost,  A  Further  Range 
by  Robert  Frost,  The  Collected  Poems  of  Robert  Frost,  copyright  1936  and  1939, 
Chicago  Poems  and  Cornhus^ers  by  Carl  Sandburg,  and  Selected  Poems  by 
George  Sterling. 

HOUGHTON  MIFFLIN  COMPANY — for  selections  from  The  Complete  Worlds  of  Bret 
Harte,  The  Shoes  that  Danced  by  Anna  Hempstead  Branch,  Grimm  Tales  Made 
Gay  by  Guy  Wetmore  Carryl,  Sea  Garden  by  H.  D.,  The  Tall  Men  by  Donald 
Davidson,  Preludes  and  Symphonies  by  John  Gould  Fletcher,  A  Roadside  Harp 
and  Happy  Endings  by  Louise  Imogen  Guiney,  Ballads  by  John  Hay,  Sword, 
Blades  and  Poppy  Seed  by  Amy  Lowell,  Men,  Women  and  Ghosts  by  Amy 
Lowell,  Pictures  of  the  Floating  World  by  Amy  Lowell,  What's  OfClocf(  by  Amy 
Lowell,  Streets  in  the  Moon  by  Archibald  MacLeish,  New  Found  Land  by  Archi- 


FOREWORD  ix 

bald  MacLeish,  Poems:  1924-1933  by  Archibald  MacLeish,  Panic  by  Archibald 
MacLeish,  Poems  and  Poetic  Dramas  by  William  Vaughn  Moody,  Poems  by 
Edward  Rowland  Sill,  and  the  quotations  from  Some  Imagist  Poets — all  of  which 
are  used  by  permission  of,  and  by  special  arrangement  with,  Houghton'Mifflin 
Company,  the  authorized  publishers. 

ALFRED  A.  KNOPF,  INC. — for  selections  from  Punch:  The  Immortal  Liar  by  Conrad 
Aiken,  Advice  by  Maxwell  Bodenheim,  A  Canticle  of  Pan  by  Witter  Bynner, 
Verse  by  Adelaide  Crapsey,  A  Letter  to  Robert  Frost  by  Robert  Hillyer,  Pattern 
of  a  Day  by  Robert  Hillyer,  The  Collected  Verse  of  Robert  Hillyer,  Fine  Clothes 
to  the  Jew  by  Langston  Hughes,  Songs  for  the  New  Age,  Golden  Bird,  and  The 
Sea  by  James  Oppenheim,  Lustra  by  Ezra  Pound,  Chills  and  Fever  and  Two 
Gentlemen  in  Bonds  by  John  Crowe  Ransom,  Harmonium  by  Wallace  Stevens, 
Travelling  Standing  Still  by  Genevieve  Taggard,  Nets  to  Catch  the  Wind  by 
Elinor  Wylie,  Blac\  Armour  by  Elinor  Wylie,  Trivial  Breath  by  Elinor  Wylie, 
Angels  and  Earthly  Creatures  by  Elinor  Wylie,  and  Collected  Poems  (Copyright 
1932)  by  Elinor  Wylie — all  of  which  are  reprinted  by  permission  of,  and  by 
special  arrangement  with,  Alfred  A.  Knopf,  Inc.,  authorized  publishers. 

LITTLE,  BROWN  &  COMPANY — for  selections  from  The  Complete  Poems  of  Emily 
Dickinson,  Further  Poems  by  Emily  Dickinson,  and  The  Poems  of  Emily  Dic\- 
inson:  Centenary  Edition,  edited  by  Martha  Dickinson  Bianchi  and  Alfred  Leete 
Hampson,  and  from  The  Face  is  Familiar  by  Ogden  Nash — all  of  which  are  re- 
printed by  permission  of  Little,  Brown  &  Company,  authorized  publishers. 

THE  LIVEIUGHT  CORPORATION — for  selections  from  White  Buildings  by  Hart  Crane, 
The  Bridge  by  Hart  Crane,  and  Collected  Poems  by  Hart  Crane,  Collected  Poems 
by  H.  D.,  Personae  by  Ezra  Pound,  and  Priapus  and  the  Pool  by  Conrad  Aiken. 

LONGMANS,  GREEN  AND  COMPANY — for  selections  from  Stone  Dust  by  Frank  Ernest 

Hill. 

PHE  MACMILLAN  COMPANY — for  selections  from  The  Chinese  Nightingale  by  Vachel 
Lindsay,  Collected  Poems  by  Vachel  Lindsay,  Spoon  River  Anthology  and  Songs 
and  Satires  by  Edgar  Lee  Masters,  The  Man  Against  the  S^y  by  Edwin  Arlington 
Robinson,  Collected  Poems  by  Edwin  Arlington  Robinson,  and  Dionysus  in  Doubt 
by  Edwin  Arlington  Robinson,  Rivers  to  the  Sea,  Love  Songs,  Flame  and  Shadow 
and  Dar^  of  the  Moon  by  Sara  Teasdale,  Hesperides  by  Ridgely  Torrence,  Steep 
Ascent  by  Jean  Starr  Untermeyer,  Cold  Morning  S^y  by  Marya  Zaturenska,  and 
The  Listening  Landscape  by  Marya  Zaturenska. 

EDWIN  MARKHAM  AND  VIRGIL  MARKHAM — for  selections  from  The  Man  with  the 
Hoe  and  Other  Poems,  Poems,  The  Shoes  of  Happiness  and  Other  Poems,  and 
New  Poems,  published  by  Doubleday,  Doran  &  Company  and  copyright  by  the 
late  Edwin  Markham,  with  whose  permission,  by  special  arrangement,  the  poems 
are  reprinted. 

EDNA  ST.  VINCENT  MILLAY  and  her  agents,  Brandt  &  Brandt — for  permission  to  re- 
print her  poems  which  are  copyright  as  follows:  "God's  World,"  and  "Renas- 
cence," from  Renascence,  published  by  Harper  &  Brothers,  copyright  1917,  1924, 
by  Edna  St.  Vincent  Millay.  "The  Pear  Tree,"  copyright  1919  by  Edna  St.  Vin- 
cent Millay.  "Elegy,"  "The  Poet  and  His  Book,"  "Spring,"  "Passer  Mortuus 
Est,"  and  "Wild  Swans,"  from  Second  April,  published  by  Harper  &  Brothers, 


*  FOREWORD 

copyright  1921,  1924,  by  Edna  St.  Vincent  Millay.  "I  Shall  Go  Back,"  "What 
Lips  My  Lips  Have  Kissed,"  "Pity  Me  Not,"  "Euclid  Alone  Has  Looked  on 
Beauty  Bare,"  and  "Departure"  from  The  Harp-Weaver  and  Other  Poems,  pub- 
lished by  Harper  &  Brothers,  copyright  1920,  1921,  1922  and  1923  by  Edna  St. 
Vincent  Millay.  "Sonnet  to  Gath,"  "On  Hearing  a  Symphony  of  Beethoven," 
"The  Cameo,"  and  "Justice  Denied  in  Massachusetts,"  from  The  Euc\  in  the 
Snow,  published  by  Harper  &  Brothers,  copyright  1928  by  Edna  St.  Vincent 
Millay.  "Oh,  Sleep  Forever  in  the  Latmian  Cave"  from  Fatal  Interview,  published 
by  Harper  &  Brothers,  copyright  1931  by  Edna  St.  Vincent  Millay.  "The  Return" 
and  "See  Where  Capella  with  Her  Golden  Kids"  from  Wine  from  These  Grapes, 
copyright  1934  by  Edna  St.  Vincent  Millay. 

ROBERT  M.  McBuiDE  &  COMPANY — for  selections  from  Those  Not  Elect  by  Leonie 
Adams,  and  Body  of  This  Death  by  Louise  Bogan. 

THE  MANAS  PRESS  (Claude  Bragdon) — for  selections  from  Verse  by  Adelaide 
Crapsey. 

THE  METROPOLITAN  PRESS  (Portland,  Oregon) — for  a  poem  from  The  Mountain  in 
the  SJ(y  by  Howard  McKmley  Corning. 

MINTON,  BALCH  AND  COMPANY — for  selections  from  Mr.  Pope  and  Other  Poems 
by  Allen  Tate. 

THE  MODERN  LIBRARY — for  the  selections  by  Robinson  Jeflers  originally  published 
in  A  Miscellany  of  American  Poetry — 7927  reprinted  in  Roan  Stallion,  Tamar 
and  Other  Poems. 

THOMAS  B.  MOSHER — for  selections  from  A  Quiet  Road  and  A  Wayside  Lute  by 
Lizette  Woodworth  Reese. 

NEW  DIRECTIONS — for  selections  from  First  Will  &  Testament  by  Kenneth  Patchen, 
In  Dreams  Begin  Responsibilities  by  Delmore  Schwartz,  The  Complete  Collected 
Poems:  1906-1938  of  William  Cailos  Williams,  The  Broken  Span  by  William 
Carlos  Williams,  and  New  Directions  in  Prose  and  Poetry:  1940. 

PAGAN  PUBLISHING  COMPANY — for  selections  from  Minna  and  Myself  by  Maxwell 
Bodenheim. 

RANDOM  HOUSE — for  selections  from  Collected  Poems  by  Kenneth  Fearing,  Cawdor 
by  Robinson  Jeffers,  Dear  Judas  and  Other  Poems  by  Robinson  Jeflers,  Thurso's 
Landing  by  Robinson  Jeffers,  Solstice  by  Robinson  Jaffers,  Be  Angry  at  the  Sun 
by  Robinson  Jeffers,  and  The  Selected  Poetty  of  Robinson  Jeffers.  Also  for  the 
poems,  copyright  individually  by  the  authors,  first  printed  in  The  Poetry  Quartos 
by  Robert  Frost,  E.  A.  Robinson,  Conrad  Aiken,  William  Rose  Benet,  and  Elinor 
Wylie. 

A.  M.  ROBERTSON — for  selections  from  The  House  of  Orchids  by  George  Sterling. 

NORMAN  REMINGTON  COMPANY — for  selections  from  Spicewood  and  Wild  Cherry  by 
Lizette  Woodworth  Reese. 

CHARLES  SCRIBNER'S  SONS — for  selections  from  Preludes  for  Memnon  and  Selected 
Poems  by  Conrad  Aiken,  Darf(  Summer  by  Louise  Bogan,  The  Complete  Works 
of  Eugene  Field,  Poems  of  Sidney  Lamer,  copyright  1884,  1891,  1916  by  Mary 
D.  Lanier,  The  Crows  by  David  McCord,  The  Children  of  the  Night  and  Town 
Down  the  River  by  Edwin  Arlington  Robinson,  Poems  (Revised  Edition)  by 
George  Santayana,  Poems:  1928-1931  by  Allen  Tate,  Dust  and  Light  and  The 


FOREWORD  xi 

Blac\  Panther  by  John  Hall  Wheelock— all  of  which  are  printed  by  permission  of, 
and  special  arrangement  with,  Charles  Scribner's  Sons. 

SHERMAN,  FRENCH  AND  COMPANY — for  selections  from  The  Human  Fantasy  and 

.  The  Beloved  Adventure  by  John  Hall  Wheelock. 

SMALL,  MAYNARD  &  COMPANY — for  selections  from  Ballads  of  Lost  Haven  by  Bliss 
Carman,  Along  the  Trail  by  Richard  Hovey,  Songs  from  Vagabondia  and  More 
Songs  from  Vagabondia  by  Richard  Hovey  and  Bliss  Carman. 

HARRISON  SMITH  &  ROBERT  HAAS,  INC. — for  a  poem  from  Dance  of  Fire  by  Lola 
Ridge. 

F.  A.  STOKES  COMPANY — for  selections  from  War  Is  Kind  by  Stephen  Crane  and 
Grenstone  Poems  by  Witter  Bynner. 

STURGIS  &  WALTON  COMPANY — for  a  selection  from  Monday  Mowing  by  James 
Oppenheim. 

THE  TROUTBECK  PRESS  (Amenia,  New  York) — for  selections  from  Dear  Lovely 
Death  by  Langston  Hughes. 

HAROLD  VINAL,  LTD. — for  selections  from  Hate's  Pond  by  James  Whaler. 

THE  VIKING  PRESS — for  selections  from  Boy  in  the  Wind  and  The  Flowering  Stone 
by  George  Dillon,  The  Seventh  Hill  by  Robert  Hillycr,  God's  Tiombones  by 
James  Weldon  Johnson,  The  Vaunt  of  Man  by  William  Ellery  Leonard,  The 
Ghetto  and  Sun-up  by  Lola  Ridge,  Under  the  Ttee  by  Elizabeth  Madox  Roberts, 
Song  in  the  Meadow  by  Elizabeth  Madox  Roberts,  Gt  owing  Pains  and  Dreams 
Out  of  Darkness  by  Jean  Starr  Untermeyer. 

WASHBURN  &  THOMAS — for  a  poem  from  Floodgate  by  David  McCord. 

WYCKOFF  &  GELBER — for  selections  from  Hawaiian  Hilltop  by  Gencvieve  Taggard. 

THE  YALE  UNIVERSITY  PRESS — for  selections  from  Young  Adventure  by  Stephen 
Vincent  Benet,  The  Burglar  of  the  Zodiac  by  William  Rose  Benet,  Permit  Me 
Voyage  by  James  Agee,  and  Theory  of  Flight  by  Muriel  Rukeyser. 

For  those  poems  which  have  appeared  in  various  publications  but  which 
have  not  yet  been  collected  in  volumes  by  their  authors  I  am  indebted  to  the 
following  magazines: 

THE  AMERICAN  MERCURY — for  poems  by  David  McCord  and  Merrill  Moore. 

THE  AMERICAN  REVIEW — for  poems  by   Robert  Penn  Warren  and  John  Crowe 

Ransom. 

THE  AMERICAN  POETRY  JOURNAL — for  a  poem  by  Robert  Hillycr. 
THE  ATLANTIC  MONTHLY — for  poems  by  Robert  Frost  and  Robert  Hillyer. 
THE  NATION — for  a  poem  by  Mark  Van  Doren. 
THE  NEW  REPUBLIC — for  poems  by  Leonie  Adams,  George  Dillon,  John  Crowe 

Ransom,  and  Robert  Penn  Warren. 

THE  NEW  YORKER — for  a  poem  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet. 
POETRY:  A  MAGAZINE  OF  VERSE — for  poems  by  Countec  Cullen,  Howard  McKinley 

Corning,  and  Elizabeth  Madox  Roberts. 

THE  SATURDAY  REVIEW  OF  LITERATURE — for  poems  by  Anna  Hempstead  Branch, 
'     Genevieve  Taggard,  and  Robinson  Jeffers. 
THE  SOUTHERN  REVIEW— -for  a  poem  by  Robert  Penn  Warren. 


xii  FOREWORD 

THE  VIRGINIA  QUARTERLY  REVIEW — for  poems  by  Elizabeth  Madox  Roberts,  David 

McCord,  and  Robinson  Jeffers. 
THE  YALE  REVIEW — for  poems  by  Robert  Frost  and  Melville  Cane. 

The  introductory  note  to  the  poems  by  Walt  Whitman  is  a  revision  of  the 
paragraphs  which  first  appeared  in  the  editor's  American  Poetry  from  the 
Beginning  to  Whitman  published  in  1931. 

For  the  privilege  of  printing  poems  in  manuscript  and  other  poems  not  yet 
in  any  of  their  volumes,  I  am  gratefully  indebted  to  Leonie  Adams,  James 
Agee,  Conrad  Aiken,  Stephen  Vincent  Benet,  Elizabeth  Coatsworth,  Melville 
Cane,  John  Gould  Fletcher,  Robert  Frost,  Robert  Hillyer,  Robinson  Jeffers, 
David  McCord,  Merrill  Moore,  the  late  Elizabeth  Madox  Roberts,  Delmore 
Schwartz,  Wallace  Stevens,  Allen  Tate,  Genevieve  Taggard,  Muriel  Rukeyser, 
Robert  Penn  Warren,  William  Carlos  Williams,  and  Marya  Zaturenska.  All 
rights  have  been  reserved  by  the  authors,  and  permissions  to  reprint  any  of 
their  poems  must  be  made  direct  to  them,  their  agents  or  publishers. 

I  must  record  my  thanks  to  Henry  A.  Stickney  and  William  W.  Mathewson 
for  permission  to  reprint  the  poems  of  Trumbull  Stickney;  to  Julian  R.  Hovey 
for  permission  to  reprint  poems  by  Richard  Hovey;  and  to  Ruth  Hall  for  her 
assistance  concerning  certain  poems  by  her  sister  Hazel  Hall. 

For  advice  and  helpful  suggestions  during  the  revision  of  this  book,  I  am 
grateful  to  Kenneth  A.  Robinson,  Dartmouth  College;  Guy  S.  Greene,  Iowa 
State  College;  E.  O.  James,  Mills  College;  and  Robert  Hillyer,  Harvard  Uni- 
versity. Consultations,  correspondence,  and  (especially)  arguments  have  been 
especially  fruitful  with  Jay  Laughlm,  Horace  Gregory,  Marya  Zaturenska,  and 
William  Carlos  Williams.  Finally  I  must  happily  acknowledge  the  labors  of  my 
wife,  Esther  Antin,  in  the  combined  roles  of  critic  and  collaborator. 


Contents 


A  FOREWORD,  V 
PREFACE,  3 

WALT  WHITMAN   (1819-1892),   33 

I  Hear  America  Singing,  40 
The  Muse  in  the  New  World,  41 
Recorders  Ages  Hence,  41 
The  Commonplace,  42 
"A  Noiseless  Patient  Spider,  42 
To  a  Common  Prostitute,  42 
When  I  Heard  the  Learn'd  Astron- 
omer, 42 
Reconciliation,  43 
I  Hear  It  Was  Charged  against  Me, 

43 
Mannahatta,  43 

Song  of  Myself,  44 

Song  of  the  Open  Road,  63 

The  Broad-Ax,  65 

PH  the  Beach  at  Night,  65 

Out  of  the  Cradle  Endlessly  Rocking,  * 

66 
Facing  West  from  California's  Shores, 

70 
When   Lilacs   Last   in    the    DooryarclCr 

Bloom 'd,  71 

0  Captain!  My  Captain',  76 
After  the  Supper  and  Talk,  77 
The  Last  Invocation,  77 

EMILY  DICKINSON    (1830-1886),   77 

1  Taste  a  Liquor  Never  Brewed,  83  w 
A  Bird  Came  Downihe  Walk,  83 
Elysium  Is  as  Far,  84 


EMILY   DICKINSON    (Cont^) 
I  Never  Saw  a  Moor,  84 
I  Never  Lost  as  Much,  84 
Indian  Summer,  84 
I  Died  for  Beauty,  84 
The  Sky  Is  Low,  84 
Mysteries,  85 

I  Like  to  See  It  Lap  the  Miles,  85 
^--The  Soul  Selects,  85 

My    Life    Closed    Twice    Before    Its 

Close,  85 

The  Heart  Asks  Pleasure  First,  85 
I  Cannot  Live  with  You,  85 
Of  Course  I  Prayed,  86 
There  Is  No  Frigate  Like  a  Book,  86 
I  Had   Been  Hungry  All  the  Years, 

86 

I  Heard  a  Fly  Buzz  When  I  Died,  87  < 
^--There's  a  Certain  Slant  of  Light,  87 
I  Measure  Every  Grief  I  Meet,  87 
The  Brain  Is  Wider  than  the  Sky,  87 
Bring  Me  the  Sunset  in  a  Cup,  88 
The  Tint  I  Cannot  Take  Is  Best,  88 
I  Dreaded  That  First  Robin"So,  88 
^After  Great   Pain   a   Formal   Feeling 

Comes,  89 
A  Cemetery,  89 
Ample  Make  This  Bed,  89 
Although  I  Put  Away  His  Life,  89 
The  World  Feels  Dusty,  89 
Lightly  Stepped  a  Yellow  Star,  90 
Go  Not  Too  Near  a  House  of  Rose, 

90 
I  Reckon,  When  I  Count  at  All,  90 


XIV 

EMILY  DICKINSON    (Cont.) 
Because  that  You  Are  Going,  90 
What  Soft,  Cherubic  Creatures,  91 

^  Because  I  Could  Not  Stop  for  Death,  i 

91 

The  Mountains  Grow  Unnoticed,  92 
Truth  Is  as  Old  as  God,  92 

JOHN  HAY  (1838-1905),  92 
Jim  Bludso,  93 
Banty  Tim,  93 

BRET  HARTE   (1839-1902),  94 
"Jim,"  95 
Plain  Language  from  Truthful  James, 

What  the  Bullet  Sang,  96 
The  Aged  Stranger,  97 

JOAQUIN  MILLER  (1841-1913),  97 
By  the  Pacific  Ocean,  99 
Crossing  the  Plains,  99 
Prom  "Byron,"  99 
The  Arctic  Moon,  99 

EDWARD  ROWLAND  SILL   (1841-1887), 
100 

Opportunity,  100 

The  Fool's  Prayer,  100 

SIDNEY  LANIER   (1842-1881),   101 
Song  of  the  Chattahoochee,  102 
Night  and  Day,  103 
From  "The  Marshes  of  Glynn,"  103 
Song  for  "The  Jacquerie,"  104 
A  Ballad  of  the  Trees  and  the  Master, 
105 

JAMES  WHITCOMB  RILEY  (1849-1916), 
105 

When  the  Frost  Is  on  the  Punkin,  106 
A  Parting  Guest,  107 


CONTENTS 

EUGENE  FIELD  (1850-1895),   107 

Our  Two  Opinions,  108 
Little  Boy  Blue,  108 
Seem*  Things,  109 

EDWIN  MARKHAM    (1852-1940),   101 
Outwitted,  no 
The  Man  with  the  Hoe,  HI 
The  Avengers,  112 
Preparedness,  112 
Lincoln,  the  Man  of  the  People,  112 

LIZETTE    WOODWORTH    REESE    (1856- 

1935).    H3 
Tears,  114 
Spice  wood,  115 
Spring  Ecstasy,  115 
Ownership,  115 
A  Puritan  Lady,  115 
A  Flower  of  Mullein,  116 
Miracle,  116 
Wild  Cherry,  116 
Old  Saul,  116 
Women,  117 
Surety,  118 
Crows,  118 

LOUISE  IMOGEN  GUINEY  (1861-1920), 

118 

The  Kings,  119 
The  Wild  Ride,  119 

BLISS   CARMAN    (1861-1929),    120 
A  Vagabond  Song,  121 
The  Gravedigger,  121 
Hem  and  Haw,  122 
Daisies,  122 

GEORGE  SANTA YANA   (1863-          ),   122 
As  in  the  Midst  of  Battle  There  Is 

Room,  124 

After  Gray   Vigils,  Sunshine  in  the* 
Heart,  124 


CONTENTS 


GEORGE  SANTAYANA  (Cotlt.) 

On  the  Death  of  a  Metaphysician,  124 
The  Rustic  at  the  Play,  125 
O   World,   Thou   Choosest   Not   the 
Better  Part,  125 

RICHARD  HOVEY   (1864-1900),  125 
At  the  Crossroads,  126 
Unmanifest  Destiny,  127 
Love  in  the  Winds,  127 
Comrades,  128 
Contemporaries,  128 
A  Stein  Song,  128 

WILLIAM      VAUGHN      MOODY      (1869- 

1910),   129 
Pandora's  Song,  130 
Gloucester  Moors,  130 
Road-Hymn  for  the  Start,  131 
From  "Jetsarn>"  132 
On  a  Soldier  Fallen  in  the  Philippines, 

133 

GEORGE  STERLING    (1869-1926),   133 
The  Black  Vulture,  134 
The  Master  Manner,  134 
The  Night  of  Gods,  135 

EDWIN    ARLINGTON   ROBINSON    (1869- 

!935)>   135 
Exit,  139 
Credo,  139 
James  Wetherell,  140 
Miniver  Cheevy,  140 
Cliff  Klingenhagen,  140 
The  House  on  the  Hill,  141 
An  Old  Story,  141 
Richard  Cory,  141 
Bewick  Finzer,  141 
Reuben  Bright,  142 
For  a  Dead  Lady,  142 
Calvary,  142 
Vickery's  Mountain,  143 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

Too  Much  Coffee,  143 

The  Master,  143 

Mr.  Flood's  Party,  144 

George  Crabbe,  145 

Luke  Havergal,  146 

John  Gorham,  147 

How  Annandale  Went  Out,  148 

The  Field  of  Glory,  148 

The  Clerks,  149 

The  Dark  Hills,  149 

Eros  Turannos,  149 

The  Sheaves,  150 

Ben  Jonson   Entertains  a  Man  from 

Stratford,  150 
New  England,  158 
The  Gift  of  God,  158 
The  Prodigal  Son,  159 

EDGAR  LEE  MASTERS   (1869-  )>  l6° 

Week-End  by  the  Sea,  161 
Widows,  162 
Petit,  the  Poet,  164 
Lucinda  Matlock,  164 
Anne  Rutledge,  165 
Silence,  165 

STEPHEN  CRANE   (1871-1900),    167 
I  Saw  a  Man,  168 
The  Wayfarer,  168 
Hymn,  168 

The  Blades  of  Grass,  168 
The  Book  of  Wisdom,  168 
The  Candid  Man,  168 
The  Heart,  169 

T.  A.  DALY  (1871-         ),  169 
Mia  Carlotta,  169 
Between  Two  Loves,  170 

JAMES      WELDON      JOHNSON       (1871- 

1938),    171 
The  Creation,  171 


XVI 


CONTENTS 


PAUL      LAURENCE      DUNBAR       (1872- 

1906),  174 
The   Turning  of  the   Babies   in  the 

Bed,  174 

A  Coquette  Conquered,  175 
Discovered,  175 

GUY  WETMORE  CARRYL  (1873-1904), 
175 

How  Jack  Found  that  Beans  May  Go 
Back  on  a  Chap,  176 

The  Sycophantic  Fox  and  the  Gul- 
lible Raven,  177 

How  a  Cat  Was  Annoyed  and  a  Poet 
Was  Booted,  178 

TRUMBULL  STICKNEY  (1874-1904), 
1 80 

Live  Blindly  and  upon  the  Hour,  181 
In  the  Past,  181 
Age  in  Youth,  182 
Alone  on  Lykaion,  182 

ANNA     HEMPSTEAD     BRANCH      (1874- 

1937),    182 

The  Monk  in  the  Kitchen,  183 
While  Loveliness  Goes  By,  184 
To  a  Dog,  184 

AMY  LOWELL   (1874-1925),   185 
A  Lady,  188 
Solitaire,  188 
Patterns,  188 
Wind  and  Silver,  191 
Night  Clouds,  191 
Free   Fantasia   on   Japanese   Themes, 

191 

A  Decade,  192 

Madonna  of  the  Evening  Flowers,  192 
Evelyn  Ray,  193 
The  Taxi,  196 
In  Excelsis,  197 
Meeting-House  Hill,  198 


AMY  LOWELL  (Cont.) 

Lilacs,  198 
The  Sisters,  201 

RIDGELY   TORRENCE    (1875-  ),   204 

The  Bird  and  the  Tree,  204 
The  Son,  205 

ROBERT  FROST  (1875-          ),  205 

The  Pasture,  210 

The  Onset,  210 

The  Tuft  of  Flowers,  210 

Reluctance,  212 

Mending  Wall,  212 

The  Cow  in  Apple-Time,  213 
j/flfhe  Death  of  the  Hired  Man,  213 

After  Apple-Picking,  218 

An  Old  Man's  Winter  Night,  218 
v' Birches,  219  /^"W. 

Brown's  Descent,  220 

The  Runaway,  221 

To  Earthward,  222 
**x£ire  and  Ice,  222 

Two  Look  at  Two,  222 

A  Sky  Pair, 

Canis  Major,  223 

The  Peaceful  Shepherd,  223 

Bereft,  223 

i/Tree  at  My  Window,  224 
«^West-Running  Brook,  224 

Once  by  the  Pacific,  226 

The  Bear,  226 

Sand  Dunes,  227 

The  Lovely  Shall  Be  Choosers,  227 

The  Egg  and  the  Machine,  228 
^/Stopping  by  Woods  on  a  Snowy  Eve 
ning,  229 

Nothing  Gold  Can  Stay,  229 

The  Road  Not  Taken,  229 

A  Leaf-Treader,  230 

Lost  in  Heaven,  230 
rt  Places,  230 

Two  Tramps  in  Mud-Time,  231 


CONTENTS 

ROBERT  FROST   (Cotlt.) 
Departmental,  232    ^ 
A  Considerable  Speck,  232 
Happiness  Makes  Up  in  Height,  233 
"Come  In,  233 

WILLIAM     ELLERY     LEONARD     (1876- 

)>  234 

The  Image  of  Delight,  234 
To  the  Victor,  235 

CARL  SANDBURG   (1878-          ),  235 
Ten  Definitions  of  Poetry,  238 
Chicago,  238 
Fog,  239 
Grass,  239 
Cool  Tombs,  239 
Nocturne    in    a    Deserted    Brickyard, 

240 

Limited,  240 
Four  Preludes  on  Playthings  of  the 

Wind,  240 
A.  E.  F.,  242 
Prayers  of  Steel,  242 
Jazz  Fantasia,  242 
Blue  Island  Intersection,  242 
From  "Smoke  and  Steel,"  243 
Losers,  244 
Wind  Song,  245 
Primer  Lesson,  245 
Broken-Face  Gargoyles,  246 
Flash  Crimson,  246 
Early  Lynching,  247 
Precious  Moments,  247 
Moist  Moon  People,  248 
Bundles,  248 
Upstream,  248 
Sunsets,  249 

Elephants  Are  Different,  249 
For  You,  249 
From  "The  People,  Yes" 

They  Have  Yarns,  250 

The  People  Will  Live  On,  253 


XVII 

ADELAIDE  CRAPSEY   (1878-1914),  255 

Six  Cinquains 

November  Night,  255 

Susanna  and  the  Elders,  255 

Triad,  256 

Niagara,  256 

The  Warning,  256 

Arbutus,  256 

On  Seeing  Weather-Beaten  Trees,  256 
Vendor's  Song,  256 
The  Lonely  Death,  256 
Song,  256 
The  Immortal  Residue,  256 

VACHEL    LINDSAY    (1879-1931),  257 

The  Congo,  259 

To  a  Golden-Haired  Girl  in  a  Louisi- 
ana Town,  262 

General  William  Booth  Enters  into 
Heaven,  262 

The  Eagle  That  Is  Forgotten,  264 

The  Ghosts  of  the  Buffaloes,  264 

The  Traveler,  266 

A    Negro    Sermon: — Simon    Legree, 

267 

John  Brown,  268 

The  Dove  of  New  Snow,  269 

The  Flower-Fed  Buffaloes,  269 

Abraham  Lincoln  Walks  at  Midnight, 
270 

When  Lincoln  Came  to  Springfield, 
270 

Nancy  Hanks,  Mother  of  Abraham 
Lincoln,  271 

Wild  Cats,  271 

The  Apple-Barrel  of  Johnny  Apple- 
seed,  272 

The  Voyage,  272 

The  Chinese  Nightingale,  272 

MELVILLE  CANE   (1879-          ),  278 
Snow  Toward  Evening,  278 
Tree  in  December,  278 


CONTENTS 


MELVILLE  CANE    (Cont!) 

Dawn  Has  Yet  to  Ripple  In,  279 
Hymn  to  Night,  279 

WALLACE  STEVENS    (1879-          ),  280 
Anecdote  of  the  Jar,  282 
Peter  Quince  at  the  Clavier,  282  «* 
To  the  One  of  Fictive  Music,  283 
Sunday  Morning,  284      +** 
Domination  of  Black,  285 
Sea  Surface  Full  of  Clouds,  286 
Annual  Gaiety,  289 
Homunculus  et  la  Belle  Etoile,  289 
Two  Figures  in  Dense  Violet  Light, 

289 

Gallant  Chateau,  290 
The  Idea  of  Order  at  Key  West,  290 
Bouquet  of  Belle  Scavoir,  291 
Asides'  on  the  Oboe,  292 

FRANKLIN     P.     ADAMS      (l88l-          ), 

293 

The  Rich  Man,  293 
Those  Two  Boys,  293 

WITTER  BYNNER   (l88l-          ),  294 
Grass-Tops,  295 
Voices,  295 

A  Farmer  Remembers  Lincoln,  295 
Train-Mates,  296 
The  Singing  Huntsman,  297 
Against  the  Cold,  297 

JAMES  OPPENHEIM    (1882-1932),  297 
The  Slave,  298 

The  Runner  in  the  Skies,  298 
The  Lincoln  Child,  299 
Night  Note,  301 
Tasting  the  Earth,  302 
Hebrews,  302 

LOLA  RIDGE    (l882?-I94l),  303 
Passages  from  "The  Ghetto,"  304 
Faces,  305 


LOLA  RIDGE 

New.  Orleans,  306 
Wind  in  the  Alleys,  306 
Marie,  306 
April  of  Our  Desire,  306 

WILLIAM    CARLOS    WILLIAMS     (l 

)>  307 

Metric  Figure,  308 
Dawn,  309 
Poem,  309 
January,  309 
Queen-Ann's-Lace,  309 
Daisy,  310 

On  Gay  Wallpaper,  310 
Tract,  310 
Smell,  312 
A  Goodnight,  312 
**  The  Red  Wheelbarrow,  314 
Flowers  by  the  Sea,  314 
The  Poor,  314 
These,  314 
Illegitimate  Things,  315 

SARA  TEASDALE    (1884-1933),  315 
Night  Song  at  Amalfi,  316 
Spring  Night,  316 
I  Shall  Not  Care,  317 
The  Long  Hill,  317 
Water-Lihes,  317 
Let  It  Be  Forgotten,  318 
Wisdom,  318 
The  Solitary,  318 
The  Crystal  Gazer,  318 
Appraisal,  319 
On  the  South  Downs,  319 
August  Night,  319 
Effigy  of  a  Nun,  319 
The  Flight,  320 

ELIZABETH     MADOX    ROBERTS     (1885- 

1941),  321 
The  Sky,  322 
Christmas  Morning,  322 


GtiNTENTS 

ELIZABETH  MADOX  ROBERTS 
Orpheus,  322 
Stranger,  323 

A  Ballet  Song  of  Mary,  324 
Woodcock  of  the  Ivory  Beak,  325 

ELINOR  WYLIE   (1885-1928),  325 
The  Eagle  and  the  Mole,  328 
The  Knight  Fallen  on  Evil  Days,  328 
Pegasus  Lost,  329 
Madman's  Song,  329 
Sanctuary,  330 
Velvet  Shoes,  330 
Escape,  330     - 
Golden  Bough,  330 
August,  331 
Puritan  Sonnet,  331 
Nebuchadnezzar,  331 
Let  No  Charitable  Hope,  332 
Confession  of  Faith,  332 
"Desolation  Is  a  Delicate  Thing,"  332 
Peter  and  John,  333 
Full  Moon,  334 
Epitaph,  334 
Birthday  Sonnet,  334 
O  Virtuous  Light,  335 
The  Pebble,  335 
Sonnet  from  "One  Person,"  335 
This  Corruptible,  336 
Hymn  to  Earth,  338 

EZRA  POUND  (1885-          ),  339 
An  Immorality,  342 
A  Virginal,  343 
Ballad  for  Gloom,  343 
Greek  Epigram,  344 
Ballad  of  the  Goodly  Fere,  344 
A  Girl,  345 

In  a  Station  of  the  Metro,  345 
Dance  Figure,  345 
MIPIA,  345 
Silet,  346 
Portrait  D'une  Femme,  346 


xtx 

EZRA  POUND  (Cont!) 

The  Return,  347 
Envoi,  347 
The  Rest,  347 
It*,  348 
Canto  I,  348 

LOUIS  UNTERMEYER  (1885-  ),  349 

Prayer,  351 

Caliban  in  the  Coal  Mines,  352 
The  Dark  Chamber,  352 
Scarcely  Spring,  352 
Long  Feud,  353 
Unreasoning  Heart,  353 
Food  and  Drink,  354 
Last  Words  Before  Winter,  355 
Against  Time,  355 
Five  Parodies 

John  Maseficld,  356 

Walter  De  la  Mare,  357 

Edna  St.  Vincent  Millay,  358 

Archibald  MacLeish,  358 

Edgar  A.  Guest,  359  ^ 

JOHN  GOULD  FLETCHER   (l886-          ), 
360 

From  "Irradiations,"  361 

Green  Symphony,  362 

London  Nightfall,  365 

The  Skaters,  366 

Lincoln,  366 

A  Rebel,  367 

Before  Olympus,  368 

Advent,  368 

The  Birth  of  Lucifer,  369 

A  New  Heaven,  369 

Ad  Majorem  Hominis  Gloriam,  370 

The  Lofty  House,  370 

WILLIAM    ROSE    BENET    (l886-          ), 

370 

Merchants  from  Cathay,  371 
Night,  372 


XX 

WILLIAM  ROSE  BENET  (Cont.) 
The  Fawn  in  the  Snow,  373 
Whale,  373 
The  Horse  Thief,  374 
Brazen  Tongue,  377 
Jesse  James,  377 
Eternal  Masculine,  379 
Inscription  for  a  Mirror  in  a  Deserted 

Dwelling,  379 
Sagacity,  380 

HAZEL  HALL   (1886-1924),  380 

Flight,  381 

Any  Woman,  381 

Here  Comes  the  Thief,  381 

Slow  Death,  382 

JEAN     STARR     UNTERMEYER      (l886- 
),382 

High  Tide,  383 

Autumn,  384 

Clay  Hills,  385 

Sinfonia  Domestica,  385 

Lake  Song,  385 

Birthday,  386 

Country  of  No  Lack,  386 

One  Kind  of  Humility,  386 

Dew  on  a  Dusty  Heart,  387 

H.D.  (1886-         ),387 
Oread,  388 
Pear  Tree,  388 
Heat,  388 
Orchard,  389 
Song,  389 

From  "Let  Zeus  Record,"  389 
Lais,  389 

From  "Halcyon,"  390 
Songs  from  Cyprus,  390 
Holy  Satyr,  391 
The  Islands,  391 
Helen,  392 
Lethe,  393 


CONTENTS 

JOHN  HALL  WHEELOCK  (*88f>          ), 

393 

Sunday  Evening  in  the  Common,  394 
Triumph  of  Love,  394 
Nirvana,  395 
Love  and  Liberation,  395 
Earth,  395 
This  Quiet  Dust,  396 

ROY  HELTON   (l886-          ),  396 
Old  Christmas  Morning,  397 
Lonesome  Water,  398 

MARIANNE   MOORE    (1887-  ),  399 

A  Talisman,  399 

That  Harp  You  Play  So  Well,  399 

To  a  Steam  Roller,  400 

England,  400 

The  Fish,  401 

ROBINSON    JEFFERS    (1887-  ),  40^ 

Compensation,  405 

Age  in  Prospect,  406 

Ante  Mortem,  406 

Post  Mortem,  407 

Noon,  407 

Clouds  of  Evening,  408 

To  the  Stone-Cutters,  408 

Gale  in  April,  408 

Apology  for  Bad  Dreams,  409 

Promise  of  Peace,  411 

Birth-Dues,  411 

Summer  Holiday,  412 

Credo,  412 

Pelicans,  412 

Love  the  Wild  Swan,  413 

Night,  413 

Shine,  Perishing  Republic,  415 

Divinely  Superfluous  Beauty,  415 

Hurt  Hawks,  415 

Prescription  of  Painful  Ends,  416 

May- June,  7940,  417 


CONTENTS 


xxi 


FRANK  ERNEST  HILL  (l888-         ),  418 

Earth  and  Air,  418 
Upper  Air,  420 

T.  S.  ELIOT  (1888-         ),  420 

La  Figlia  Che  Piange,  424 

The  Love  Song  of  J.  Alfred  Prufrock, 

425 

Morning  at  the  Window,  428 
Prelude,  428 
Portrait  of  a  Lady,  429 
Conversation  Galantc,  431 
Gerontion,  432 

Rhapsody  on  a  Windy  Night,  434 
Sweeney    Among    the    Nightingales, 

434 
Burbank  with   a   Baedeker:   Bleistein 

with  a  Cigar,  435 
The  Hollow  Men,  435 
Animula,  437 
A  Song  for  Simeon,  437 
Journey  of  the  Magi,  438 
Ash-Wednesday,  439 

JOHN   CROWE    RANSOM    (l888-          ), 

444 
Bells  for  John  Whiteside's  Daughter, 

446 

Lady  Lost,  447 
Blue  Giils,  447 
Here  Lies  a  Lady,  448 
Janet  Waking,  448 

Spiel  of  the  Three  Mountebanks,  449 
First  Travels  of  Max,  450 
Antique  Harvesters,  451 
Piazza  Piece,  452 
Captain  Carpenter,  453 
Old  Man  Pondered,  454 
Parting,  Without  a  Sequel,  455 
Prelude  to  an  Evening,  456 
Painting:  A  Head,  456 


CONRAD  AIKEN   (l88p-          ),  457 

Biead  and  Music,  459 

Miracles,  460 

Morning  Song  from  "Senlin,"  460 

The  Room,  462 

The  Puppet  Dreams 

"Sheba,  now  let  down  your  hair," 

463 
"Open  a  window  on  the  world," 

'     463 
"There  is  a  fountain  in  a  wood," 

463 

Portrait  of  a  Girl,  463 
And  in  the  Hanging  Gardens — ,  464 
The  Road,  466 
Annihilation,  467 
The  Quarrel,  468 
At  a  Concert  of  Mu<ic,  468 
Tetclestai,  469 
When  the  Tree  Bares,  471 
One  Star  Fell  and  Another,  472 
But  I  low  It  Came  from  Earth,  472 
Prckulc  VI,  473 
Cloister,  474 


JAMES  WHALER   (1889- 

The  Pond,  477 
Monsieur  Pipcreau,  478 


)>  476 


EDNA    ST.    VINCENT    MILLAY     (1892- 
),  486 

Renascence,  489 

The  Pear  Tree,  491 

God's  World,  492 

Wild  Swans,  492 

The  Poet  and  His  Book,  492 

Spring,  493 

Passer  Mortuus  Est,  494 

What  Lips  My  Lips  Have  Kissed,  494 

Pity  Me  Not,  494 

Departure,  495 


XXII 

EDNA  ST.  VINCENT  MILLAY  (Cont.) 

I  Shall  Go  Back,  495 

Elegy,  495 

Justice  Denied  in  Massachusetts,  496 

Euclid  Alone  Has  Looked  on  Beauty 
Bare,  497 

On  Hearing  a  Symphony  of  Bee- 
thoven, 497 

Sonnet  to  Gath,  497 

The  Cameo,  498 

Oh,  Sleep  Forever  in  the  Latmian 
Cave,  498 

See  Where  Capella  with  Her  Golden 
Kids,  498 

The  Return,  499 

MAXWELL    BODENHEIM    (1892-          ), 

499 

Poet  to  His  Love,  500 
Old  Age,  501 
Death,  501 
Hill-Side  Tree,  501 
Factory  Girl,  501 
Advice  to  a  Blue-Bird,  502 

ARCHIBALD    MAC  LEISH     (1892-          ), 
502 

Ars  Poctica,  505 

Prologue,  506 

In  My  Thirtieth  Year,  506 

Memorial  Rain,  506 

Weather,  508 

Immortal  Autumn,  508 

You,  Andrew  Marvell,  509 

The  End  of  the  World,  509 

The  Too-Late  Born,  510 

Epistle  to  Be  Left  in  the  Earth,  510 

Burying  Ground  by  the  Tics,  511 

Panic,  512  % 

Final  Chorus,  513 

The  Reconciliation,  514 

Speech  to  a  Crowd,  514 


CONTENTS 

ARCHIBALD  MAC  LEISH    (Cotlt.) 
Land  of  the  Free,  515 
The  Fall  of  the  City  (complete  text), 
516 

ELIZABETH     J.     COATSWORTH     (1893- 
)>   535 

The  Old  Mare,  535 
Daniel  Webster's  Hoiscs,  535 
The  Circus-Postered  Barn,  536 
On  a  Night  of  Snow,  536 
A  Lady  Comes  to  an  Inn,  537 

DONALD  DAVIDSON   (1893-  ),  537 

Cross  Section  of  a  Landscape,  538 
Spoken  at  a  Castle  Gate,  538 
Fire  on  Belmont  Street,  539 
Apple  and  Mole,  541 

MARK   VAN    DOREN    (1894-  ),  542 

Former  Barn  Lot,  543 

Immortal,  543 

The  Pulse,  543 

The  Distant  Runners,  543 

The  Escape,  544 

The  Whisperer,  544 

RAYMOND   HOLDEN    (1894-  ),   545 

Dead  Morning,  54=5 
Geese  in  the  Running  Water,  546 
Winter  Among  the  Days,  546 
Light  the  Lamp  Early,  546 
Proud,  Unhoped-for  Light,  546 

E.  E.  CUMMINGS    (1894-  ),  547 

When  God  Lets  My  Body  Be,  548 

Sunset,  548 

Impression — IV,  548 

La  Guerre 

"The  bigness  of  cannon,"  549 
"O  sweet  spontaneous  earth,"  549 


CONTENTS 

E.  E.  CUMMINGS    (Cant.) 

Chanson  Innocent,  550 

Always  Before  Your  Voice,  550 

Song,  551 

Portrait,  551 

Sonnet,  551 

Tliis  Is  the  Garden,  552 

Poem,   or   Beauty   Hurts   Mr.   Vinal, 

Item,  553 

Since  Feeling  Is  First,  554 

Somewhere  I  Have  Never  Travelled, 

554 

H.  PHELPS  PJTNAM  (1894-  ),  555 

Ballad  of  a  Strange  Thing,  555 
About  Women,  558 

GENEVIEVE  TAGGARD  (1894-  ),  558 

With  Child,  559 
The  Enamel  Girl,  559 
Solar  Myth,  560 
Doomsday  Morning,  561 
Try  Tropic,  561 
Dilemma  of  the  Elm,  561 
Long  View,  562 

ROBERT  HILLYER    (1895-  )>'5<>2 

As    One    Who    Bears    Beneath    His 

Neighbor's  Roof,  563 
Pastoral,  564 
Prothalamion,  564 
Night  Piece,  565 
Variations  on  a  Theme,  566 
The  Assassination,  568 
A  Letter  to  Robert  Frost,  569 

HOWARD  MCKINLEY  CORNING   (1896- 

),  573 

Pruning  Vines,  574 
Autumn  Bird,  574 


xxm 

HOWARD  MCKINLEY  CORNING  (Cotlt.) 

Farewell  to  Fields,  575 

The  Meadow  Brook  Runs  Over,  575 

LOUISE   BOGAN    (1897-  ),  575 

Medusa,  576 

Women,  576 

Decoration,  577 

Statue  and  Birds,  577 

The  Alchemist,  578 

Simple  Autumnal,  578 

Cassandia,  578 

Come,  Break  with  Time,  579 

JOSEPH  AUSLANDER   (1897-  ),  579 

Interval,  581 

Ulysses  in  Autumn,  581 

Dawn  at  the  Rain's  Edge,  581 

Touch,  582 

Elegy,  582 

DAVID  MCCORD    (1897-  ),  582 

The  Crows,  583 
Ot  Red  in  Spring,  586 
A  Bucket  of  Bees,  586 
Reflection  in  Blue,  592 

STEPHEN      VINCENT      BENET       (1898- 

)>  592 

Rain  After  a  Vaudeville  Show,  594 
Winged  Man,  594 
The    Ballad    of    William    Sycamore, 

595 
Love  Came  By  from  the  Riversmokc, 

596 
Song  of  the  Riders,  597 

5>  598 


HORACE  GREGORY    (1898-  ),   598 

They  Found  Him  Sitting  in  a  Chair, 

599 
Poems  for  My  Daughter,  600 


XXIV 

HORACE  GREGORY  (Cont.) 

Valediction    to    My    Contemporaries, 

60 1 

Ask  No  Return,  603 
For  You,  My  Son,  603 
The    Postman's    Bell    Is    Answered 

Everywhere,  607 
This  Is  the  Place  to  Wait,  608 

MALCOLM  COWLEY   (1898-          ),  6lO 
Blue  Juniata,  610 
The  Farm  Died,  611 
Mine  No.  6,  612 
Winter:  Two  Sonnets 

"The  year  swings  over  slowly,"  612 
"When  little  daily  winds  have  died 
away,"  612 

HART  CRANE   (1899-1932),  613 

Voyages*  II,  616 
Voyages:  VI,  617 
Praise  for  an  Urn,  618 
From  "The  Bridge" 

Van  Winkle,  618 

The  River,  619 

The  Dance,  623 

Power:  Cape  Hatteras,  625 

The  Tunnel,  626 
Royal  Palm,  630 
The  Air  Plant,  630 
The  Hurricane,  631 

ALLEN  TATE   (1899-          ),  631 
Ode  to  the  Confederate  Dead,  632 
Mr.  Pope,  634 
Death  of  Little  Boys,  635 
Mother  and  Son,  635 
The  Cross,  636 
The  Mediterranean,  637 

LEONIE  ADAMS  (1899-          ),  637 
April  Mortality,  638 
Homc-Coming,  639 


CONTENTS 

LEONIE  ADAMS   (Cotlt.) 
Thought's  End,  639 
Death  and  the  Lady,  640 
Twilit  Revelation,  641 
Ghostly  Tree,  641 
The  Horn,  642 

The  River  in  the  Meadows,  642 
Country  Summer,  642 
The  Mount,  643 
This  Measure,  643 
Bell  Tower,  643 
Kingdom  of  Heaven,  644 
Sundown,  644 
Night-Piece,  645 
Lullaby,  645 

LANGSTON  HUGHES    (1902-          ),  645 
Homesick  Blues,  646 
Brass  Spittoons,  646 
Saturday  Night,  647 
Jazz  Band  in  a  Parisian  Cabaret,  647 
Drum,  647 
Florida  Road  Workers,  647 

KENNETH   FEARING   (1902-          ),  648 

Portrait,  649 

American  Rhapsody  (4),  649 
Readings,    Forecasts,    Personal    Guid- 
ance, 650 

MARYA      ZATURENSKA      (1902-          ), 
65I 

The  Daisy,  652 
The  Lovers,  652 
The  White  Dress,  653 
Head  of  Medusa,  654 
Woman  at  the  Piano,  655 
The  Tempest,  655 

OGDEN  NASH   (1903-          ),  656 
The  Rhinoceros,  657 
Adventures  of  Isabel,  657 
Golly,  How  Truth  Will  Out!,  658 


CONTENTS 


XXV 


OGDEN  NASH  (Cont.) 

Song  to  Be  Sung  by  the  Father  of 
Infant  Female  Children,  658 

COUNTEE    CULLEN    (1903-          ),  660 
Simon  the  Cyrenian  Speaks,  660 
Three  Epitaphs 

For  My  Grandmother,  661 

For  a  Virgin  Lady,  66 1 

A  Lady  I  Know,  661 
Heritage,  66 1 

MERRILL  MOORE    (1903-  ),  662 

Old    Men   and    Old   Women    Going 

Home,  664 

It  Is  Winter,  I  Know,  664 
Shot  Who?  Jim  Lanet,  664 
Warning  to  One,  665 
How  She  Resolved  to  Act,  665 
Pandora  and  the  Moon,  666 
Village  Noon:  Mid-Day  Bells,  666 
Unknown  Man  in  the  Morgue,  666 
The  Book  of  How,  667 
And  to  the  Young  Men,  667 
And  Then  Her  Burial,  667 
"Final  Status  Never  Ascertained,"  668 

ROBERT  PENN   WARREN    (1905-          ), 
668 

Pondy  Woods,  669 

Pro  Sua  Vita,  671 

Letter  of  a  Mother,  671 

History  Among  the  Rocks,  672 

Letter  from  a  Coward  to  a  Hero,  673 

The  Owl,  675 

Letter  to  a  Friend,  675 

Aubade  for  Hope,  676 

GEORGE  DILLON   (1906-          ),  676 
In  Two  Months  Now,  677 
Boy  in  the  Wind,  677 
April's  Amazing  Meaning,  677 
Memory  of  Lake  Superior,  677  • 
One  Beauty  Still,  678 


JAMES  AGEE  (1909-          ),  678 
Lyrics,  679 
Sonnets 

"So  it  begins.  Adam  is  in  his  earth," 

680 
"Our  doom   is  in  our  being.  We 

began,"  680 
"Those   former  loves  wherein  our 

lives  have  run,"  681 
"Now  stands  our  love  on  that  still 

verge  of  day,"  68 1 
Permit  Me  Voyage,  68 1 
Song  with  Words,  682 
Two    Songs    on    the    Economy    of 

Abundance 
Temperance    Note:    and    Weather 

Prophecy,  682 
Red  Sea,  682 
In  Heavy  Mind,  682 
Rapid  Transit,  682 

KENNETH  PATCHEN  (19! I-  ),  683 

In  Memory  of  Kathleen,  683 
Do  the  Dead  Know  What  Time  It 

Is?,  684 

The  Deer  and  the  Snake,  684 
Street  Corner  College,  68$ 
Like  a  Mourningless  Child,  685 

NATHALIA  CRANE   (1913-  ),  686 

The  Blind  Girl,  687 
The  Vestal,  687 
Desire,  687 
The  Dead  Bee,  687 
Song  from  "Tadmor,"  688 
Requiem,  688 

DELMORE      SCHWARTZ       (l9*3~          )> 

688 

For  Rhoda,  690 
Tired  and  Unhappy,  You  Think  of 

Houses,  6yo 
For  the  One  Who  Would  Take  Man's 

Life  in  His  Hands,  691 


XXVI 

DELMORE  SCHWARTZ   (Cont.) 

In  the  Naked  Bed,  in  Plato's  Cave, 

692 
Let   Us   Consider   Where   the   Great 

Men  Are,  692 

MURIEL   RUKEYSLR    (1913-  ),  693 

Ceiling  Unlimited,  695 
Effort  at  Speech  Between  Two  People, 
696 


CONTENTS 

MURIEL  RUKEYSER  (Cont.) 

The  Soul  and  Body  of  John  Brown, 

697 

A  Leg  in  a  Plaster  Cast,  700 
The  Meeting,  701 
Madboy's  Song,  701 
Holy  Family,  702 

INDEX  OF  AUTHORS,   703 
INDEX  OF  TITLES,  705 


MODERN  AMERICAN  POETRY 


Walt  Whitman 

\ 

WALT  (ORIGINALLY  WALTER)  WHITMAN  was  born  at  West  Hills,  near  Hunting- 
ton,  Long  Island,  May  31,  1819.  His  mother's  people  were  hard-working  Dutch 
Quakers,  his  maternal  grandfather  having  been  a  Long  Island  horse-breeder.  On  his 
father's  side  he  was  descended  from  English  Puritans  who  had  farmed  American 
soil  for  a  century  and  a  half. 

Whitman's  father  was  a  less  successful  agrarian  than  his  ancestors  and,  since  he 
was  a  better  carpenter  than  farmer,  the  elder  Whitman  moved  bis  family  to  the  then 
provincial  suburb  of  Brooklyn.  Here  the  country  child  grew  into  the  town  boy, 
was  lifted  up  for  a  moment  by  Lafayette  when  the  hero  revisited  America,  was 
equally  fascinated  by  his  father's  wood-smelling  shop  and  the  city  streets,  received 
his  first  sight  of  "fish-shaped  Paumanok"  which  was  to  become  hu»  beloved  Manna- 
hatta,  learned  at  least  the  rudiments  of  the  three  R's,  and  left  school  before  his 
teens.  At  eleven  he  was  already  at  work  as  an  errand-boy.  At  twelve  he  became  a 
"printer's  devil."  By  the  time  he  was  fourteen  he  had  learned  the  various  fonts  and 
began  to  set  type  in  the  composing-room  of  The  Long  Island  Star.  At  seventeen, 
taking  up  residence  in  the  more  profitable  metropolis,  he  was  well  on  the  road  to 
being  an  itinerant  printer-journalist.  But  New  York  was  no  Golconda  for  an  unedu- 
cated, self-conscious  youth  and,  alter  a  few  months,  Whitman  went  back  to  Long 
Island. 

There  he  remained  until  his  twenty-second  year,  living  with  his  numerous  rela- 
tions, intermittently  teaching  school,  delivering  papers,  contributing  "pieces"  to 
The  Long  Island  Democrat.  In  1841  Whitman  returned  to  Brooklyn  and  New  York, 
writing  sentimental  fillers,  novelettes,  rhetorical  and  flabby  verses,  hack-work  edi- 
torials for  journals  now  forgotten.  In  1842  he  wrote  a  temperance  tract,  Ftantyin 
Evans,  or  The  Incbnatc,  a  mixture  of  campaign  material  and  fourth-rate  Dickens, 
a  volume  which  Whitman  later  claimed  was  written  for  cash  in  three  days.  Blos- 
s6ming  out  in  frock  coat  and  high  hat,  debonair,  his  beard  smartly  trimmed, 
Whitman  at  twenty-three  was  editor  of  The  Daily  Aurora.  In  the  capacity  of 
reporter-about-town,  he  promenaded  lower  Broadway,  spent  much  time  in  the  thea- 
ters, cultivated  the  opera,  flirted  impartially  with  street-corner  politics  and  the  haul 
monde.  He  was  still  Walter  Whitman  when,  at  the  age  of  twenty-seven,  he  joined 
the  Brooklyn  Eagle. 

Various  biographers — Emory  Holloway,  in  particular — have  ferreted  out  Whit- 
man's sketches  and  editorials  of  this  period  and,  while  there  are  occasional  sugges- 
tions of  the  poet  to  come,  most  of  them  betray  him  as  a  fluent,  even  a  prolific, 
journalist  and  nothing  more.  The  style  is  alternately  chatty  and  highfalutin;  the 
ideas  are  undistinguished.  At  the  end  of  two  years,  either  because  of  his  politics  or 
his  unsatisfactory  articles,  Whitman  suddenly  lost  his  editorial  position  and,  with 
equal  abruptness,  received  an  offer  from  a  stranger  who  was  about  to  start  an  indc* 

33 


34  WALT  WHITMAN 

pendent  paper  in  New  Orleans.  Thereupon  he  left  New  York  early  in  1848  to  be- 
come a  special  writer  on  the  staff  of  the  daily  Crescent. 

Whitman's  few  months  in  the  South  have  led  to  much  speculation.  Emory  Hol- 
loway  concludes  that  New  Orleans  was  the  background  for  the  poet's  first  love-affair 
and  implies  that  his  inamorata  was  one  of  the  demimonde,  probably  a  quadroon 
beauty.  But  this  is  sheer  guess-work,  barely  supported  by  Whitman's  later  poetr) 
where  the  wish  often  substitutes  for  the  action.  This  much  is  evident:  He  and  his 
younger  brother  Jeff  enjoyed  the  more  languorous  tempo  of  the  Creole  culture;  tK* 
"Paris  of  America"  made  him  less  priggish;  his  quickened  perceptions  took  in  *  ie 
whole  alphabet  of  sights  and  sounds,  "not  missing  a  letter  from  A  to  Izzard."  His 
literary  style,  however,  had  not  improved  and,  after  three  months,  he  was  dismissed 
from  the  Crescent,  possibly  because  of  his  careless,  even  puerile  writing. 

Returning  to  New  York,  Whitman  immediately  plunged  into  editing  another 
paper.  His  failures  as  a  journalist  had  not  yet  convinced  him  he  was  mistaking  his 
career  and  in  his  thirtieth  year  he  was  in  charge  of  the  Brooklyn  Freeman.  This 
free-soil  journal  soon  shifted  its  political  course;  Whitman  was  not  agile  enough  to 
turn  with  it;  and  in  September,  1849,  he  withdrew,  "taking  his  flag  with  him/* 
As  a  free-lance,  he  wrote  for  the  New  York  Evening  Post  and  the  Advertiser,  his 
contributions  being  chiefly  articles — and  badly  over-written  ones — on  music.  He 
"took  up"  art,  gushed  about  Donizetti's  "Favonta,"  became  a  metropolitan  Bo- 
hemian. Meanwhile,  finding  he  could  not  live  by  the  pen  alone,  he  helped  his  father 
and  brothers  build  houses  in  Brooklyn.  Meanwhile,  also,  he  began  to  write  the  book 
which  was  to  be  his  hfe-work. 

It  was  at  this  time  that  Walter  Whitman,  the  dandified  journalist,  disappeared 
and  the  Walt  Whitman  of  tradition  suddenly  emerged.  He  was,  one  suspects,  not 
unconscious  of  the  tradition  and,  from  the  outset,  used  every  means  to  foster  it. 

Whitman  was  now  thirty-one;  an  entirely  different  apparition  from  the  man  who, 
in  his  late  twenties,  frequented  the  more  fashionable  lobbies.  The  once  trim  beard, 
streaked  with  premature  gray,  was  now  worn  loose  and  prophetic;  the  well-tailored 
coat  and  spruce  cane  were  discarded  in  favor  of  rough  workman's  clothes,  high 
boots,  a  large  felt  hat  and  a  red  shirt  with  the  collar  nonchalantly — or  carefully — 
opened  wide  enough  to  show  red  flannel  underneath.  He  prepared  several  lectures 
on  the  democracy  of  art  and  delivered  one  at  the  Brooklyn  Art  Union  in  1851,  but 
found  lecturing  too  tame.  He  consorted  with  ferry-men,  bus-drivers  and  other 
"powerful,  uneducated  persons."  The  legend  persists  that,  when  one  of  the  drivers 
was  ill,  Whitman  took  his  route  and  drove  the  omnibus,  shouting  passages  of 
Shakespeare  up  and  down  Broadway.  Another  legend — repeated  by  Holloway  as  a 
fact — pictures  Whitman  reading  Epictetus  to  one  of  the  boatmen  and,  afterwards, 
"cramming  his  own  volume  into  the  pocket  of  the  sailor's  monkey-jacket."  These 
are  Homeric  gestures  and  one  would  like  to  believe  them  uncalculated.  But  even 
the  most  confirmed  Whitman-worshiper  must  have  his  doubts.  Subsequent  actions 
add  to  the  admirer's  misgivings. 

The  first  edition  of  Leaves  of  Grass  was  published  in  1855.  This  epochal  volume 
made  its  initial  appearance  as  a  poorly  printed  pamphlet  of  twelve  poems  brought 
out  anonymously  and  bearing,  instead  of  a  signature,  a  portrait  of  the  author  with 
one  hand  in  his  pocket,  one  on  his  hip,  the  characteristic  open  shirt  and  a  slouch 
hat  rakishly  tilted.  One  of  the  first  copies  of  the  pamphlet  was  sent  to  Ralph  Waldo 


WALT  WHITMAN  ^ 

Emerson,  which — considering  Whitman's  indebtedness  in  spirit  if  not  in  form — was 
no  more  than  proper.  Within  a  fortnight,  Emerson,  overlooking  the  questionable 
taste  of  the  frontispiece,  and  with  something  of  the  master's  gratification  on  being 
hailed  by  an  unknown  but  fervent  disciple,  wrote  the  famous  letter  ofc  July  21,  1855, 
in  which  he  hailed  the  young  writer,  concluding,  "I  give  you  joy  of  your  free  and 
brave  thought.  I  have  great  joy  in  it.  ...  I  find  the  courage  of  treatment  which  so 
delights  us,  and  which  large  perception  only  can  inspire.  I  greet  you  at  the  begin- 
ning of  a  great  career." 

But  Emerson's  lavish  praise  (which  Whitman,  without  waiting  for  permission, 
blazoned  on  the  cover  of  his  second  edition)  was  not  loud  enough.  Nor,  was  Whit- 
man, despite  the  convictions  contained  m  the  lengthy  prose  preface,  confident 
enough  of  his  work;  he  sought  to  force  public  approval.  In  direct  opposition  to 
Emersonian  standards  and  the  spiritual  ideals  implied  in  his  foreword,  Whitman 
set  about  to  cause  a  controversy,  to  inflame  opinion  by  inflating  himself.  The  task — 
considering  the  howls  which  greeted  Leaves  of  Grass — was  not  difficult.  It  was — so 
defenders  have  insisted — the  day  of  the  anonymous  review  and  "self-puffery"  was 
not  uncommon':  But  Whitman's  offenses  in  this  regard  (and  there  were  many  of 
them)  are  inexcusable  in  view  of  the  principles  he  professed.  Two  months  after  the 
first  printing  of  Leaves  of  Grass,  he  caused  one  of  a  series  of  anonymous  articles  to 
be  printed  in  the  Brooklyn  Times  (September  29,  1855).  In  it — and  the  idiom  is 
unmistakable — he  wrote:  "Very  devilish  to  some,  and  very  divine  to  some,  will  ap- 
pear the  poet  of  these  new  poems,  these  Leaves  of  Grass:  an  attempt,  as  they  are,  of 
a  naive,  masculine,  affectionate,  contemplative,  sensual,  imperious  person  to  cast  into 
literature  not  only  his  own  grit  and  arrogance,  but  his  own  flesh  and  form,  un- 
draped,  regardless  of  models,  regardless  of  modesty  or  law."  There  was  much  more 
in  the  same  selt-laudatory  vein,  stressing  Whitman's  unkempt  virility,  his  firm  at- 
tachment for  loungers  and  the  "free  rasping  talk  of  men,"  his  retusal  to  associate 
with  literary  people  or  (forgetting  his  lecture  programs)  to  appear  on  platforms,  his 
lusty  physiology  '/corroborating  a  rugged  phrenology,"  not  even  forgetting  to  men- 
tion the  fact  that  he  "is  always  dressed  freshly  and  clean  in  strong  clothes — neck 
open,  shirt-collar  flat  and  broad."  Other  anonymous  salutations  announced  that  the 
author  was  "a  fine  brute,"  "the  most  masculine  of  beings,"  "one  of  the  roughs, 
large,  proud,  affectionate,  eating,  drinking  and  breeding." 

It  requires  little  psychology  to  analyze  what  is  so  obvious  an  over-compensation. 
In  these  anonymous  tributes  to  himself,  Whitman  revealed  far  more  than  he  in- 
tended. None  but  a  blinded  devotee  can  fail  to  suspect  a  softness  beneath  the  blus- 
ter; a  psychic  impotence  poorly  shielded  by  all  the  talk  about  fine  brutishness,  drink- 
ing and  breeding,  flinging  his  arms  right  and  left,  "drawing  men  and  women  to 
his  close  embrace,  loving  the  clasp  of  their  hands,  the  touch  of  their  necks  and 
breasts."  The  poet  protests  his  maleness  too  vociferously. 

Meanwhile,  the  second  edition  of  Leaves  of  Grass  9  containing  thirty-two  instead  of 
the  original  twelve  poems  (as  well  as  the  press  notices  written  by  himself)  appeared 
in  1856.  In  the  third  edition  (1860)  the  number  of  poems  leaped  to  one  hundred 
and  fifty-seven.  Then  the  Civil  War  made  all  other  controversies  negligible. 

Whitman  did  not  go  to  war,  although  his  married  brother  George  was  one  of  the 
first  to  enlist.  Holloway  implies  an  idealistic  motive;  Harvey  O'Higgins  charges  a 
cowardly  Narcissism.  In  any  case,  Whitman  refused  to  join  the  conflict  and,  only 


36  WALT  WHITMAN 

when  George  was  reported  missing,  did  he  see  at  first  hand  what  he  had  begun  to 
sketch  in  "Drum-Taps."  Finding  his  brother  wounded  in  a  camp  on  the  Rappahan- 
nock,  Whitman  nursed  him  and  remained  in  Washington,  serving  in  the  hospitals. 
He  acted  not  only  as  wound-dresser  but  as  good  angel — "a  bearded  fairy  god- 
mother"— for  the  disabled  men;  he  wrote  their  letters,  brought  them  tobacco  and 
ice-cream,  read  tales  and  poems,  made  life  livelier  and  death  easier  for  the  sufferers. 
These  ministrations,  so  freely  given,  gave  him  much  in  return:  an  intimacy  with 
life  in  the  raw  which,  for  all  his  assertions,  he  had  never  seen  so  closely.  No  longer 
a  spectator,  he  was  a  participant,  and  purgation  as  well  as  passion  are  manifest  in  the 
scries  of  war-echoes,  "Drum-Taps,"  and  the  uplifted  "Memories  of  President  Lin- 
coln" with  its  immortal  elegy  "When  Lilacs  Last  in  the  Dooryard  Bloom'd."  The 
end  of  the  Civil  War  defined  a  new  spirit  in  Whitman:  the  man  and  his  poetry 
became  one. 

In  1864,  through  the  pressure  of  friends,  a  minor  clerkship  in  the  Indian  Bureau 
of  the  Interior  Department  was  found  for  Whitman.  But,  though  he  was  promoted, 
he  did  not  hold  the  position  long.  His  chief,  Secretary  James  Harlan,  once  a  Method- 
ist preacher,  had  heard  rumors  of  his  subordinate's  "immorality."  Without  stopping 
to  consider  the  ethics  of  the  situation,  Harlan  purloined  Whitman's  private  copy  of 
Leaves  of  Crass  after  closing-time,  and  fell  afoul  of  the  "Children  of  Adam"  sec- 
tion. Nothing  more  was  needed  to  prove  the  truth  of  the  rumors  and,  without  an 
hour's  notice,  Whitman  was  dismissed.  A  few  friends  rushed  to  his  defense  but 
Harlan,  a  sincere  bigot,  stuck  to  his  resolve.  William  Douglas  O'Connor,  an  Aboli- 
tionist author  who  was  one  of  Whitman's  staunchest  admirers,  issued  a  pamphlet 
not  merely  defending  but  glorifying  Whitman,  coining,  for  his  title,  the  phrase  "The 
Good  Gray  Poet" — a  sobriquet  which  has  outlasted  all  of  O'Connor's  works. 

Affairs  were  at  a  low  ebb.  As  a  person,  Whitman  was  stranded  with  no  livelihood 
and  little  influence;  as  a  poet  he  was  repudiated  by  all  but  a  small  coterie  at  home 
and  abroad.  Eight  years  later,  and  seventeen  years  after  the  first  edition  of  Leaves  of 
Grass  (in  January,  1872),  Whitman  complained  to  Dowden,  who  had  praised  him 
unreservedly  in  England,  "If  you  write  again  for  publication  about  my  books  .  .  . 
I  think  it  would  be  proper  and  even  essential  to  include  the  important  facts  (for 
facts  they  are)  that  the  Leaves  of  Gtass  and  their  author  are  contemptuously  ignored 
by  the  recogni7cd  literary  organs  here  in  the  United  States,  rejected  by  the  publish- 
ing houses,  the  author  turned  out  of  a  government  clerkship  and  deprived  of  his 
means  of  support  .  .  .  solely  on  account  of  having  written  the  book." 

Transferred  to  the  office  of  the  Attorney  General  after  his  dismissal,  Whitman  re- 
mained there  until  1873  when,  on  the  night  of  February  twenty-second,  he  was 
struck  by  paralysis.  Whitman's  mother,  lying  ill  in  his  brother  George's  house,  was 
spared  the  news  of  his  attack.  She  died  the  following  May  and  Whitman  somehow 
rallied  sufficiently  to  be  at  her  bedside.  For  months  after  he  could  not  use  his  limbs 
and — let  the  psychoanalysts  make  what  they  will  of  it — it  is  doubtful  if  he  ever  re- 
covered from  the  effect  of  her  death.  Two  years  later,  while  arranging  his  prose 
writings  for  publication,  he  confided,  "I  occupy  myself  .  .  .  still  enveloped  in 
thoughts  of  my  dear  Mother,  the  most  perfect  and  magnetic  character,  the  rarest 
combination  of  practical,  moral  and  spiritual,  and  the  least  selfish,  of  all  and  any 
I  have  ever  known — and  by  me  O  so  much  the  most  deeply  loved." 

At  fifty-five  Whitman  was  almost  comoletelv  incapacitated.  He  did  not  suffer  the 


WALT  WHITMAN  yj 

daily  agonies  of  Heine  on  his  mattress  grave,  but  confinement  in  Camdcn,  where  his 
mother  had  died  and*  where  his  brother  lived,  was  grueling  enough.  His  solitude 
was  alleviated  by  letters  from  abroad  and  the  beginnings  of  recognition  at  home. 
Although  he  got  out  of  doors  a  little,  he  could  not  walk  any  distance,  and  Edward 
Carpenter,  John  Burroughs,  Richard  Maurice  Bucke  (later  one  ot  Whitman's  execu- 
tors) and  others  made  pilgrimages  to  his  room  in  Mickle  Street,  near  the  railroad 
yards.  There  were  intervals  when  his  health  improved  sufficiently  to  permit  small 
visits  to  New  York  and  Boston,  but  by  1877,  he  was  enfeebled  and,  in  spite  of 
friends,  poverty-stricken.  He  was  reduced  to  peddling  his  books  from  a  basket  in 
the  streets  of  Philadelphia  and  Camden,  and,  although  his  brother  "George  offered 
him  a  special  place  in  the  house  he  was  building  in  Burlington,  New  jersey,  Whit- 
man chose  to  stay  where  he  was. 

Whitman  grew  old  with  dignity  and  not  without  honor.  In  June,  1888,  after  a 
longer  drive  than  usual,  Whitman  took  cold.  A  new  and  more  severe  paralytic 
shock  followed.  For  a  time  Whitman  lost  the  power  of  speech.  In  1890  he  bought 
ground  for  his  grave  and  planned  an  appropriately  massive  tomb.  The  following 
March  he  was  wheeled  over  to  Philadelphia — a  move  that  meant  much  discomfort 
and  actual  suffering — to  deliver  a  tribute  to  Lincoln.  He  was  failing,  but  not  rapidly. 
In  1891  a  birthday  dinner  tendered  by  friends  was  served  in  his  own  rooms,  a  festive 
occasion,  to  judge  from  his  own  letter,  at  which  Whitman  drank  champagne, 
speaking  "a  few  words  of  honor  and  reverence  for  our  Emerson,  Biyant,  Long- 
fellow— dead — and  then  for  Whittier  and  Tennyson,  the  boss  ot  us  all."  That  De- 
cember Whitman  contracted  pneumonia  "with  complications"  and  knew  he  would 
not  recover.  Aided  by  Horace  Traubel,  the  young  Jewish  Quaker  who  became  the 
Boswell  of  his  later  days,  he  prefaced  a  final  "deathbed  edition"  o£  Leaves  of  Grass. 
Death  came  toward  the  end  ot  his  seventy-third  year,  on  March  26,  1892. 

Analysis  of  Whitman's  poetry  is  the  more  difficult  because  it  presents  a  paradox — 
a  paradox  of  which  Whitman  was  not  unaware.  He  knew  his  "barbaric  yawp"  was 
untranslatable,  unconforming,  impossible  to  transfix  with  a  phrase  or  a  theory.  "I 
depart  as  air  ...  If  you  want  me  again  look  for  me  under  your  boot-soles."  The 
same  contradictions  which  marked  his  personality  are  evident  in  his  rhapsodies. 
Leaves  of  Grass  sets  out  to  be  the  manifesto  of  the  ordinary  man,  "the  divine  aver- 
age," yet  it  is  doubtful  if  the  ordinary  man  understands  its  rhetoric  or,  understand- 
ing, responds  to  it.  No  great  common  audience  has  rallied  to  Whitman's  philosophy, 
no  army  of  poets  has  followed  his  form.  Few  of  the  "powerful  uneducated  persons" 
for  whom  Whitman  believed  his  book  would  be  a  "democratic  Gospel"  can  appre- 
ciate, and  fewer  still  can  admire,  his  extraordinary  mixture  of  self-adulation  and  im- 
potence, abnormality  and  mysticism.  The  same  contradictions  which  mark  his  per- 
sonality are  evident  in  his  style.  His  work  aims  toward  a  simplification  of  speech — 
an  American  language  experiment — yet  its  homeliness  is  not  always  racy.  Sometimes 
it  is  mere  flat  statement,  sometimes  it  is  a,  grotesque  combination  of  the  colloquial 
and  the  grandiose.  Sometimes,  indeed,  it  is  corrupted  by  linguistic  bad  taste  and 
polyglot  phrasing  as  naively  absurd  as  "the  tangl'd  long-deferr'd  eclaircissement  of 
human  life"  .  .  .  "See  my  cantabile — you  Libertad!"  "Exalte  ...  the  mighty  earth- 
eidolon"  .  .  .  "These  from  me,  O  Democracy,  to  serve  you,  ma  fcmmel"  "No 
dainty  dolce  affetuoso  I!" 

Only  Whitman's  lack  of  ease  and  certainty  in  rhyme  made  him  sacrifice  its  coun- 


38  WALT  WHITMAN 

terpoint  for  the  looser  cadence.  Nor  was  his  form  as  revolutionary  as  it  seemed. 
Heine's  "North  Sea"  cycles  had  been  composed  in  "free,"  unrhymed  rhythms  and 
the  sonorous  strophes  of  the  Old  Testament  were  Whitman's  avowed  model.  Whit- 
man was  the  first  to  object  to  the  charge  that  his  work  had  "the  freedom  of  form- 
lessness." He  did  not  even  admit  its  irregularity.  In  one  of  the  unsigned  reviews  of 
Leaves  of  Grass  he  explained,  "His  rhythm  and  uniformity  he  will  conceal  in  the 
roots  of  his  verses,  not  to  be  seen  of  themselves,  but  to  break  forth  loosely  as  lilacs 
on  a  bush  or  take  shapes  compact  as  the  shapes  of  melons/yNone  can  deny  the 
music  in  this  poetry  which  is  capable  of  the  widest  orchestral  effects.  It  is  a  music 
accomplished  in  a  dozen  ways — by  the  Hebraic  "balance"  brought  to  perfection  in 
Job  and  the  Psalms,  by  the  long  and  extraordinarily  flexible  line  suddenly  whipped 
taut,  by  repetitions  at  the  beginnings  of  lines  and  reiterations  within  the  lines,  by 
following  his  recitatives  with  a  soaring  ana.  Thus,  in  the  midst  of  the  elaborate 
piling  up  in  "Song  of  Myself"  there  are  such  sheer  lyrical  outbursts  as  the  passages 
beginning  "Press  close,  bare-bosomed  night,"  "Smile,  O  voluptuous  cool-breath 'd 
earth,"  "The  last  scud  of  the  day  holds  back  for  me,"  "A  /child  said  'What  is  the 
grass?'"  .  .  .  "No  counting  of  syllables,"  wrote  Anne  Gilchrist,  "will  reveal  the 
mechanism  of  this  music."  But  the  music  is  there,  now  rising  in  gathering  choirs  of 
brasses,  now  falling  to  the  rumor  of  a  flute. 

Mass  and  magnitude  are  the  result.  And  rightly,  for  mass  was  the  material. 
Unlike  the  cameo-cutting  Aldrich  and  the  polished  Stedman,  both  of  whom  be- 
littled him,  Whitman  was  no  lapidary.  His  aim  was  not  to  remodel  or  brighten  a 
few  high  facets  of  existence;  he  sought  to  embody  a  universe  in  the  rough.  For 
him  no  aspect  of  life  was  trivial;  every  common,  superficial  cover  was  a  cavern  of 
rich  and  inexhaustible  depths.  'A  leaf  of  grass,  with  its  tendrils  twined  about  the 
core  of  earth,  was  no  less  than  the  journey-work  of  the  stars;  the  cow,  "crunching 
with  depressed  head,"  put  Phidias  to  shame;  the  roadside  running  blackberry,  seen 
with  the  eye  of  vision,  was  "fit  to  adorn  the  parlors  of  heaven."  Nothing  was  mean; 
nothing  was  rejected.  Whitman  had  read  Blake,  Dante,  Shakespeare,  Shelley; 
besides  knowing  his  Bible,  he  was  acquainted  with  the  sacred  books  of  the  East  and 
their  reexpression  in  Emerson.  His  transcendentalism  was  not  a  new  thing;  but  the 
fusion  of  identity  and  impersonality,  the  union  of  the  cgo-drivcn  self  and  the  im- 
partially moving  universe  was  newly  synthesized  in  his  rhapsodies.  His  aim  was 
inclusive — the  lack  of  exclusiveness  may  be  Whitman's  chief  defect — for  though  he 
celebrated  the  person  in  all  his  separateness,  he  added  "the  word  democratic,  the 
word  En-ma$se."  All  was  included  in  "the  procreant  urge  of  the  world."  Opposites 
merge  into  one:  the  unseen  is  proved  by  the  seen;  all  goes  onward  and  outward, 
nothing  collapses.  Light  and  dark,  good  and  evil,  body  and  soul  do  not  merely 
emphasize  but  complete  each  other. 

^Whitman's  insistence  that  the  body  was  holy  in  all  its  manifestations  caused  a 
great  deal  of  contemporary  misunderstanding  and  developed  into  mysterious  whis- 
perings. His  early  commentators — Burroughs  (whose  estimates  were  dictated  by 
Whitman),  Carpenter,  Bucke,  Traubel — magnified  his  maleness,  insisted  too  much 
on  his  normality,  and  generally  misinterpreted  him.  As  late  as  1926  Emory  Holloway 
made  no  effort  to  resolve  the  contradictions  and,  apart  from  an  obscure  hint  or 
two,  scarcely  suggested  that  there  was  a  split  between  Whitman's  pronouncements 
and  his  nature.  The  split  was  actually  a  gulf.  Whitman's  preoccupation  with  the 


WALT  WHITMAN  & 

details  of  clothes — he  was  as  fastidious  about  the  way  a  workman's  shirt  should  be 
worn  as  he  once  was  about  the  set  of  a  high  hat — his  role  as  nurse  during  the  Civil 
War,  his  pathetic  insistence  that  he  was  the  father  of  six  children,  none  of  which 
ever  appeared,  and  his  avoidance  of  women  make  it  clear  that  this  "fine  brute,"  this 
"most  masculine  of  beings,"  was  really  an  invert.  Whitman's  brother  told  Traubel 
that  "Walt  never  fell  in  love.  .  .  .  He  did  not  seem  to  affect  the  girls,"  and  even 
Edward  Carpenter  concluded  "there  can  be  no  doubt  that  his  intimacies  with  men 
were  much  more  numerous  than  with  women."  Not  the  least  of  his  inconsistencies 
is  Whitman's  delusion  that  an  "adhesive"  love,  the  love  of  "comrades,"  was  the 
basis  on  which  a  broader  democracy  would  be  built. 

Whitman's  "all-inclusive  love"  springs  not  only  from  his  own  pathological  eccen- 
tricities, but  from  an  undefined  Pantheism.  His  very  eagerness  to  express  the  whole 
cosmos  often  results  in  a  chaotic  pouring  forth  of  prophecy  and  claptrap.  For  this 
reason  Whitman  should  be  read,  not  as  one  reads  a  book  of  lyrics,  weighing  and 
appraising  individual  stanzas,  but  as  one  reads  an  epic,  letting  the  movement, 
the  swelling  volume,  carry  the  lines  along.  It  is  only  in  the  rare  instances  that  we 
stop  to  remark  the  particularities — the  extraordinarily  graphic  description  of  an  old- 
time  sea-fight  in  "Song  of  Myself,"  or  images  as  breath-taking  as  "the  indolent, 
sinking  sun,  burning,  expanding  the  air"  and  "The  hands  of  the  sisters  Death  and 
Night  incessantly  softly  wash  again,  and  ever  again,  this  soil'd  world"  and  "Out 
of  the  cradle  endlessly  rocking;  out  of  the  mocking  bird's  throat,  the  musical  shut- 
tle .  .  ."„  .-  ' 

Here,  framed  in  firm  syllables,  are  large  convictions,  strong  wants.  Tenderness, 
not  pretty  sentiment,  rises  to  new  heights  in  the  Lincoln  elegies,  in  "Out  of  the 
Cradle  Endlessly  Rocking,"  in  the  superbly  quiet  "On  the  Beach  at  Night."  There  is, 
it  is  true,  a  degree  of  affectation  here — affectation  of  nationalism  and  simplicity  (re- 
ferring to  Six-month  rather  than  to  May,  to  Mannahatta  rather  than  to  New  York); 
affectation  of  hybrid  terms  ("Me  imperturbe'"  "Camerado'"  "I  expose,"  "Dehriate, 
thus  preluding,"  "Allons!  from  all  formulas'"  "How  plenteous'  how  spiritual'  how 
resume!"  etc.);  affectations,  always,  of  too  insistent  a  strength.  It  is  also  true  that 
we  read  Whitman  in  youth — as  we  read  Swinburne — for  intoxication,  uncritically, 
contemptuous  of  reservations  which  maturity  compels. 

The  contradictions  resist  complete  synthesis.  It  is  impossible  to  analyze  Whit- 
man's final  significance  to  American  social  and  cultural  development;  we  can  only 
record  the  greatness  of  his  contribution.  His  windy  optimism  remains  an  emotional 
rather  than  a  rational  influence.  His  whole-heartedncss,  his  large  yea-saying,  coming 
at  a  time  of  cautious  skepticism,  hesitancy  and  insecurity,  is  Whitman's  gift  not  only 
to  his  period  but  to  posterity. 

Whitman's  inconsistency,  especially  his  paradox  of  democracy,  continues  to  baffle 
the  literary  historians.  In  1930,  in  the  third  volume  of  his  monumental  Main  Currents 
in  American  Thought  (the  uncompleted  volume  entitled  The  Beginnings  of  Critical 
Realism  in  America)  the  late  Vernon  L.  Parrington  concludes  that  Whitman  is  the 
complete  embodiment  of  Enlightenment — "the  poet  and  prophet  of  a  democracy 
that  the  America  of  the  Gilded  Age  was  daily  betraying."  Yet  Parrington  himself, 
though  he  sees  Whitman  as  "the  most  deeply  religious  soul  that  American  literature 
knows,"  sees  also  Whitman's  failure  as  a  prophet.  "The  great  hopes  on  which  he 
[Whitman]  fed  have  been  belied  by  after  events — so  his  critics  say;  as  the  great 


4o  WALT   WHITMAN 

hopes  of  the  Enlightenment  have  been  belied.  Certainly  in  this  welter  of  today,  with 
science  become  the  drab  and  slut  of  war  and  industrialism,  with  sterile  money- 
slaves  instead  of  men,  Whitman's  expansive  hopes  seem  grotesque  enough.  Democ- 
racy may  indeed  be  only  a  euphemism  for  the  rulership  of  fools." 

Yet  the  paradox  must  be  grasped — or,  at  least,  admitted — if  one  is  to  understand 
Whitman  at  all.  Somehow  the  contradictions  are  resolved;  somehow  the  prophet, 
the  pamphleteer,  and  the  poet  achieve  a  unity  if  only  through  an  intensification  of 
the  inner  life:  a  liberal  humanism.  That  Whitman  was  self-confounded  is  fairly 
obvious;  he  seems  to  have  confused  an  ideal  culture  founded  on  quality  with  a 
merely  quantitative  conception  of  life.  But  his  faith,  romantic  as  it  was  resurgent, 
triumphed  over  his  contradictions,  actually  imposed  a  sort  of  harmony  upon  them. 

Thus  Whitman  rises  above  his  defects.  The  reader  forgets  the  lesser  flaws,  the 
lumbering  failures.  The  illumined  phrases  burn  clear;  the  pictures,  once  etched  upon 
the  imagination,  are  there  to  stay.  Above  all,  the  effect  remains,  an  effect  not  re- 
ducible to  phrases;  a  sense  of  released  power,  irresistible  and  benevolent,  immense  in 
affirmation.  Beyond  what  Symonds  called  "delicate  and  evanescent  moods  of  sensi- 
bility" is  the  communication  of  amplitudes.  It  expands  the  air. 

Such  poetry,  whatever  its  lapses,  has  the  stuff  of  permanence.  It  will  persist  not 
only  because  of  its  rebellious  and  compelling  power,  but  because  the  poet  has 
transcended  his  material.  The  personal  contact  is  achieved,  as  Whitman  knew  it 
would  be.  "Who  touches  this  book  touches  a  man."  Lascelles  Abercrombie,  a  poet  of 
an  entirely  different  persuasion,  said  that  Whitman  created  "out  of  the  wealth  of  his 
experience  that  vividly  personal  figure  which  is  surely  one  of  the  few  supremely 
great  things  m  modern  poetry — the  figure  of  himself/*  But  his  work  was  larger 
than  the  man.  Whitman  was  not  dilating  his  value  when  he  claimed  to  contain  mul- 
titudes. His  book  projects  and  creates  them  in  a  sphere  nobler  than  our  own. 
Employing  words,  he  harnessed  elements. 

I    HEAR    AMERICA    SINGING 

I  hear  America  singing,  the  varied  carols  I  hear, 

Those  of  mechanics,  each  one  singing  his  as  it  should  be  blithe  and  strong, 

The  caipcnter  singing  his  as  he  measures  his  plank  or  beam, 

The  mason  singing  his  as  he  makes  ready  for  work,  or  leaves  off  work, 

The  boatman  singing  what  belongs  to  him  in  his  boat,  the  deckhand  singing  on  the 
steamboat  deck, 

The  shoemaker  singing  as  he  sits  on  his  bench,  the  hatter  singing  as  he  stands, 

The  wood-cutter's  song,  th6  plowboy's  on  his  way  in  the  morning,  or  at  noon  inter- 
mission or  at  sundown, 

The  delicious  singing  of  the  mother,  or  of  the  young  wife  at  work,  or  of  the  girl 
sewing  or  washing, 

Each  singing  what  belongs  to  him  or  her  and  to  none  else, 

The  day  what  belongs  to  the  day — at  night  the  party  of  young  fellows,  robust, 
friendly, 

Singing  with  open  mouths  their  strong  melodious  songs. 


WALT   WHITMAN  # 

THE  MUSE  IN  THE  NEW  WORLD 

(from  "Song  of  the  Exposition") 

Come,  Muse,  migrate  from  Greece  and  Ionia, 

Cross  out  please  those  immensely  overpaid  accounts, 

That  matter  of  Troy  and  Achilles'  wrath,'  and  Aeneas',  Odysseus'  wanderings, 

Placard  "Removed"  and  "To  Let"  on  the  rocks  of  your  snowy  Parnassus, 

Repeat  at  Jerusalem,  place  the  notice  high  on  Jaffa's  gate  and  on  Mount  Monah, 

The  same  on  the  walls  of  your  German,  French  and  Spanish  castles,  and  Italian 

collections, 
For  know  a  better,  fresher,  busier  sphere,  a  wide,  untried  domain  awaits,  demands 

you. 

Responsive  to  our  summons, 

Or  rather  to  her  long-nurs'd  inclination, 

Jom'd  with  an  irresistible,  natural  gravitation, 

She  comes'  I  hear  the  rustling  of  hci  gown, 

I  scent  the  odor  of  her  breath's  delicious  tragrance, 

I  mark  her  step  divine,  her  curious  eyes  a-turnmg,  rolling, 

Upon  this  very  scene. 

I  say  I  sec,  my  friends,  if  you  do  not,  the  illustrious  emigre,  (having  it  is  true  in  her 

day,  although  the  same,  changed,  journey VI  considerable,) 
Making  ducctly  for  this  rcndc/vous,  vigorously  clearing  a  path  lor  heiself,  striding 

through  the  confusion, 

By  thud  of  machinery  and  shrill  steam-whistle  undismay'd, 
BlurTd  not  a  bit  by  drain-pipe,  gasometers,  artificial  fertilizers; 
Smiling  and  plcas'd  with  palpable  intent  to  stay, 
She's  here,  install'd  amid  the  kitchen-ware' 


RECORDERS     AGES     HENCE 

Recorders  ages  hence, 

Come,  I  will  take  you  down  underneath  this  impassive  exterior,  I   will   tell  you 

what  to  say  of  rnc, 

Publish  my  name  and  hang  up  my  picture  as  that  of  the  tcnderest  lover, 
The  friend  the  lover's  portrait,  of  whom  his  friend  his  lover  was  fondest, 
Who  was  not  proud  ol  his  songs,  but  of  the  measureless  ocean  of  love  within  him, 

and  freely  pour'd  it  forth, 

Who  often  walk'd  lonesome  walks  thinking  of  his  dear  friends,  his  lovers, 
Who  pensive  away  from  one  he  lov'd  ottcn  lay  sleepless  and  dissatisfied  at  night, 
Who  knew  too  well  the  sick,  sick  dread  lest  the  one  he  lov'd  might  secretly  be 

indifferent  to  him, 
Whose  happiest  days  were   far  away  through   fields,  in   woods,  on  hills,  he  and 

another  wandering  hand  in  hand,  they  twain  apart  from  other  men, 
Who  oft  as  he  sauntcr'd  the  streets  curv'd  with  his  arm  the  shoulder  of  his  friend, 

while  the  arm  of  his  friend  rested  upon  him  also. 


42  WALT  WHITMAN 

THE    COMMONPLACE 

The  commonplace  I  sing; 

How  cheap  is  health!  how  cheap  nobility! 

Abstinence,  no  falsehood,  no  gluttony,  lust; 

The  open  air  I  sing,  freedom,  toleration, 

(Take  here  the  mainest  lesson — less  from  books — less  from  the  schools,) 

The  common  day  and  night — the  common  earth  and  waters, 

Your  farm — your  work,  trade,  occupation, 

The  democratic  wisdom  underneath,  like  solid  ground  for  all. 


A     NOISELESS     PATIENT    SPIDER 

A  noiseless  patient  spider, 

I  mark'd  where  on  a  little  promontory  it  stood  isolated, 

Mark'd  how  to  explore  the  vacant  vast  surrounding, 

It  launched  forth  filament,  filament,  filament,  out  of  itself. 

Ever  unreeling  them,  ever  tirelessly  speeding  them. 

And  you  O  my  soul  where  you  stand, 

Surrounded,  detached,  in  measureless  oceans  of  space, 

Ceaselessly  musing,  venturing,  throwing,  seeking  the  spheres  to  connect  them. 

Till  the  bridge  you  will  need  be  form'd,  till  the  ductile  anchor  hold, 

Till  the  gossamer  thread  you  fling  catch  somewhere,  O  my  soul. 


TO    A    COMMON    PROSTITUTE 

Be  composed — be  at  ease  with  me — I  am  Walt  Whitman,  liberal  and  lusty  as  Nature, 

Not  till  the  sun  excludes  you  do  I  exclude  you, 

Not  till  the  waters  refuse  to  glisten  for  you  and  the  leaves  to  rustle  for  you,  do  my 
words  refuse  to  glisten  and  rustle  for  you. 

My  girl  I  appoint  with  you  an  appointment,  and  I  charge  you  that  you  make  prep- 
aration to  be  worthy  to  meet  me, 

And  I  charge  you  that  you  be  patient  and  perfect  till  I  come. 

Till  then  I  salute  you  with  a  significant  look  that  you  do  not  forget  me. 


WHEN    I    HEARD    THE    LEARN    D    ASTRONOMER 

When  I  heard  the  Icarn'd  astronomer, 

When  the  proofs,  the  figures,  were  ranged  in  columns  before  me, 

When  I  was  shown  the  charts  and  diagrams,  to  add,  divide,  and  measure  them, 

When  I  sitting  heard  the  astronomer  where  he  lectured  with  much  applause  in  the 

lecture-room, 

How  soon  unaccountable  I  became  tired  and  sick, 
Till  rising  and  gliding  out  I  wander'd  off  by  myself, 
In  the  mystical  moist  night-air,  and  from  time  to  time, 
Look'd  up  in  perfect  silence  at  the  stars. 


WALT  WHITMAN 


RECONCILIATION 


Word  over  all,  beautiful  as  the  sky, 

Beautiful  that  war  and  all  its  deeds  of  carnage  must  in  time  be  utterly  lost, 

That  the  hands  of  the  sisters  Death  and  Night  incessantly  sottly  wash  again,  and 

ever  again,  this  soiPd  world; 

For  my  enemy  is  dead,  a  man  divine  as  myself  is  dead, 
I  look  where  he  lies  white-faced  and  still  in  the  coffin  —  I  draw  near, 
Bend  down  and  touch  lightly  with  my  lips  the  white  face  in  the  coffin. 


I    HEAR    IT    WAS    CHARGED    AGAINST    ME 

I  hear  it  was  charged  against  me  that  I  sought  to  destroy  institutions, 

But  really  I  am  neither  for  or  against  institutions, 

(What  indeed  have  I  in  common  with  them?  or  what  with  the  destruction  of  them?) 

Only  I  will  establish  in  the  Mannahatta  and  in  every  city  of  these  States  inland  and 

seaboard, 

And  in  the  fields  and  woods,  and  above  every  keel  little  or  large  that  dents  the  water, 
Without  edifices  or  rules  or  trustees  or  any  argument, 
The  institution  of  the  dear  love  of  comrades. 


MANNAHATTA 

I  was  asking  for  something  specific  and  perfect  for  my  city, 
Whereupon  lo'  upsprang  the  aboriginal  name. 

Now  I  see  what  there  is  in  a  name,  a  word,  liquid,  sane,  unruly,  musical,  self- 
sufficient, 

I  see  that  the  word  of  my  city  is  that  word  from  of  old, 
Because  I  see  that  word  nested  in  nests  of  water-bays,  superb, 
Rich,  hcmm'd  thick  all  around  with  sailships  and  steamships,  an  island  sixteen 

miles  long,  solid-founded, 
Numberless  crowded  streets,  high  growths  of  iron,  slender,  strong,  light,  splendidly 

uprising  toward  clear  skies, 

Tides  swift  and  ample,  well-loved  by  me,  toward  sundown, 
The  flowing  sea-currents,  the  little  islands,  larger  adjoining  islands,  the  heights,  the 

villas, 
The  countless  masts,  the  white  shore-steamers,  the  lighters,  the  ferry-boats,  the  black 

sea-steamers  well  modei'd, 
The  down-town  streets,  the  jobbers'  houses  of  business,  the  houses  of  business  of  the 

ship-merchants  and  money-brokers,  the  river-streets, 
Immigrants  arriving,  fifteen  thousand  in  a  week, 

The  carts  hauling  goods,  the  manly  race  of  drivers  of  horses,  the  brown-faced  sailors^ 
The  summer  air,  the  bright  sun  shining,  and  the  sailing  clouds  aloft, 
The  winter  snows,  the  sleigh-bells,  the  broken  ice  in  the  river,  passing  along  up  or 

down  with  the  flood-tide  or  ebb-tide, 
The  mechanics  of  the  city,  the  masters,  well-form'd,  beautiful-faced,  looking  you 

straight  in  the  eyes, 
Trottoirs  throng'd,  vehicles,  Broadway,  the  women,  the  shops  and  shows, 


44  WALT   WHITMAN 

A  million  people — manners  free  and  superb — open  voices — hospitality — the  most 

courageous  and  friendly  young  men, 

City  of  hurried  and  sparkling  waters'  city  of  spires  and  mastsl 
City  nested  in  bays!  my  city! 


SONG    OF    MYSELF 

I 

I  celebrate  myself,  and  sing  myself, 

And  what  I  assume  you  shall  assume, 

For  every  atom  belonging  to  me  as  good  belongs  to  you. 

I  loafe  and  invite  my  soul, 

I  lean  and  loafc  at  my  case  observing  a  spear  oL  summer  grass. 

My  tongue,  every  atom  of  my  blood,  form'd  from  this  soil,  this  air, 

Born  here  of  parents  bom  here  from  parents  the  same,  and  their  parents  the  same,, 

I,  now  thirty-seven  years  old  in  perfect  health  begin, 

Hoping  to  cease  not  till  death. 

Creeds  and  schools  in  abeyance, 

Retiring  back  a  while  sufficed  at  what  they  arc,  but  never  forgotten, 

I  harbor  for  good  or  bad,  I  permit  to  speak  at  every  hazard, 

Nature  without  check  with  original  energy. 


Houses  and  rooms  are  full  of  perfumes,  the  shelves  are  crowded  with  perfumes, 

I  breathe  the  fragrance  myself  and  know  it  and  like  it, 

The  distillation  would  intoxicate  me  also,  but  I  shall  not  let  it. 

The  atmosphere  is  not  a  perfume,  it  has  no  taste  of  the  distillation,  it  is  odorless, 

It  is  for  my  mouth  forever,  I  am  in  love  with  it, 

I  will  go  to  the  bank  by  the  wood  and  become  undisguised  and  naked, 

I  am  mad  for  it  to  be  in  contact  with  me. 

The  smoke  of  my  own  breath, 

Echoes,  ripples,  buzz'd  whispers,  love-root,  silk-thread,  crotch  and  vine, 

My  respiration  and  inspiration,  the  beating  of  my  heart,  the  passing  of  blood  and 

air  through  my  lungs, 
The  sniff  of  green  leaves  and  dry  leaves,  and  of  the  shore  and  dark-color'd  sea-rocks, 

and  of  hay  in  the  barn, 

The  sound  of  the  belch'd  words  of  my  voice  loos'd  to  the  eddies  of  the  wind, 
A  few  light  kisses,  a  few  embraces,  a  reaching  around  of  arms, 
The  play  of  shine  and  shade  on  thf  trees  as  the  supple  boughs  wag, 
The  delight  alone  or  in  the  rush  of  the  streets,  or  along  the  fields  and  hill-sides, 
The  feeling  of  health,  the  full-noon  trill,  the  song  of  me  rising  from  bed  and 

meeting  the  sun. 

Have  you  reckoned  a  thousand  acres  much?  have  you  reckoned  the  earth  much? 
Have  you  practiced  so  long  to  learn  to  read? 
Have  you  felt  so  proud  to  get  at  the  meaning  of  poems? 


WALT  WHITMAN  45 

Stop  this  day  and  night  with  me  and  you  shall  possess  the  origin  of  all  poems, 
You  shall  possess  the  good  of  the  earth  and  sun,  (there  are  millions  of  suns  left,) 
You  shall  no  longer  take  things  at  second  or  third  hand,  nor  look  through  the  eyes 

of  the  dead,  nor  feed  on  the  specters  in  books, 

You  shall  not  look  through  my  eyes  either,  nor  take  things  from  me, 
You  shall  listen  to  all  sides  and  filter  them  from  your  self. 

3 

I  have  heard  what  the  talkers  were  talking,  the  talk  of  the  beginning  and  the  end, 
But  I  do  not  talk  of  the  beginning  or  the  end. 

There  was  never  any  more  inception  than  there  is  now, 
Nor  any  more  youth  or  age  than  there  is  now, 
And  will  never  be  any  more  perfection  than  there  is  now, 
Nor  any  more  heaven  or  hell  than  there  is  now. 

Urge  and  urge  and  urge, 

Always  the  procrcant  urge  of  the  world. 

Out  of  the  dimness  opposite  equals  advance,  always  substance  and  increase,  always 

sex, 
Always  a  knit  of  identity,  always  distinction,  always  a  breed  of  life. 

To  elaborate  is  no  avail,  learn'd  and  unlearn'd  feel  that  it  is  so. 

Sure  as  the  most  certain  sure,  plumb  in  the  uprights,  well  center-tied,  braced  in  the 

beams, 

Stout  as  a  horse,  aflcctionate,  haughty,  electrical, 
I  and  this  mystery  here  we  stand. 
Clear  and  sweet  is  my  soul,  and  clear  and  sweet  is  all  that  is  not  my  soul. 

Lack  one  lacks  both,  and  the  unseen  is  proved  by  the  seen, 
Till  that  becomes  unseen  and  receives  proof  in  its  turn. 

Showing  the  best  and  dividing  it  from  the  worst  age  vexes  age, 
Knowing  the  perfect  fitness  and  equanimity  of  things,  while  they  discuss  I  am  silent, 
and  go  bathe  and  admire  myself. 

Welcome  is  every  organ  and  attribute  of  me,  and  of  any  man  hearty  and  clean, 
Not  an  inch  nor  a  particle  of  an  inch  is  vile,  and  none  shall  be  less  familiar  than 
the  rest. 

I  am  satisfied — I  see,  dance,  laugh,  sing; 

As  the  hugging  and  loving  bed-fellow  sleeps  at  my  side  through  the  night,  and 

withdraws  at  the  peep  of  the  day  with  stealthy  tread, 

Leaving  me  baskets  covcr'd  with  white  towels  swelling  the  house  with  their  plenty, 
Shall  I  postpone  my  acceptation  and  realization  and  scream  at  my  eyes, 
That  they  turn  from  gazing  after  and  down  the  road, 
And  forthwith  cipher  and  show  to  me  a  cent, 
Exactly  the  value  of  one  and  exactly  the  value  of  two,  and  which  is 


46  WALT  WHITMAN 

Trippers  and  askers  surround  me, 

People  I  meet,  the  effect  upon  me  of  my  early  life  or  the  ward  and  city  I  live  in, 

or  the  nation, 

The  latest  dates,  discoveries,  inventions,  societies,  authors  old  and  new, 
My  dinner,  dress,  associates,  looks,  compliments,  dues, 
The  real  or  fancied  indifference  of  some  man  or  woman  I  love, 
The  sickness  of  one  of  my  folks  or  of  myself,  or  ill-doing  or  loss  or  lack  of  money, 

or  depressions  or  exaltations, 

Battles,  the  horrors  of  fratricidal  war,  the  fever  of  doubtful  news,  the  fitful  events; 
These  come  to  me  days  and  nights  and  go  from  me  again, 
But  they  are  not  the  Me  myself. 

Apart  from  the  pulling  and  hauling  stands  what  I  am, 
Stands  amused,  complacent,  compassionating,  idle,  unitary, 
Looks  down,  is  erect,  or  bends  an  arm  on  an  impalpable  certain  rest, 
Looking  with  side-curved  head  curious  what  will  come  next, 
Both  in  and  out  of  the  game  and  watching  and  wondering  at  it. 

Backward  I  see  in  my  own  days  where  I  sweated  through  fog  with  linguists  and 

contenders, 
I  have  no  mockmgs  or  arguments,  I  witness  and  wait. 

5 

I  believe  in  you  my  soul,  the  other  I  am  must  not  abase  itself  to  you, 
And  you  must  not  be  abased  to  the  other. 

Loafe  with  me  on  the  grass,  loose  the  stop  from  your  throat, 

Not  words,  not  music  or  rhyme  I  want,  not  custom  or  lecture,  not  even  the  best. 

Only  the  lull  I  like,  the  hum  of  your  valved  voice. 


Swiftly  arose  and  spread  around  me  the  peace  and  knowledge  that  pass  all  the 

argument  of  the  earth, 

And  I  know  that  the  hand  of  God  is  the  promise  of  my  own, 
And  I  know  that  the  spirit  of  God  is  the  brother  of  my  own, 
And  that  all  the  men  ever  born  are  also  my  brothers,  and  the  women  my  sisters  and 

lovers, ,  CVi    , 

And  that  a  kelson  of  the  creation  is  love, 
And  limitless  are  leaves  stiff  or  drooping  in  the  fields, 
And  brown  ants  in  the  little  wells  beneath  them, 
And  mossy  scabs  of  the  worm  fence,  heap'd  stones,  elder,  mullein  and  poke-weed. 


A  child  said,  What  is  the  grass?  fetching  it  to  me  with  full  hands; 

How  could  I  answer  the  child?  I  do  not  know  what  it  is  any  more  than  he. 

I  guess  it  must  be  the  flag  of  my  disposition,  out  of  hopeful  green  stuff  woven. 


WALT  WHITMAN  ^ 

Or  I  guess  it  is  the  handkerchief  of  the  Lord, 
A  scented  gift  and  remembrancer  designedly  dropt, 

Bearing  the  owner's  name  someway  in  the  corner,  that  we  may  see  and  remark,  and 
say  Whose? 

Or  I  guess  the  grass  is  itself  a  child,  the  produced  babe  of  the  vegetation. 
Or  I  guess  it  is  a  uniform  hieroglyphic, 

And  it  means,  Sprouting  alike  in  broad  zones  and  narrow  zones, 
Growing  among  black  folks  as  among  white, 

Kanuck,  Tuckahoe,  Congressman,  Cuff,  I  give  them  the  same,  I  receive  them  the 
same. 

And  now  it  seems  to  me  the  beautiful  uncut  hair  of  graves, 

Tenderly  will  I  use  you  curling  grass, 

It  may  be  you  transpire  from  the  breasts  of  young  men, 

It  may  be  if  I  had  known  them  I  would  have  loved  them, 

It  may  be  you  arc  from  old  people,  or  from  offspring  taken  soon  out  of  their  mothers' 

laps, 
And  here  you  are  the  mothers'  laps. 

This  grass  is  very  dark  to  be  from  the  white  heads  of  old  mothers, 

Darker  than  the  colorless  beards  of  old  men, 

Dark  to  come  from  under  the  faint  red  roofs  of  mouths. 

0  I  perceive  after  all  so  many  uttering  tongues, 

And  I  perceive  they  do  not  come  from  the  roofs  of  mouths  for  nothing. 

1  wish  I  could  translate  the  hints  about  the  dead  young  men  and  women, 

And  the  hints  about  old  men  and  mothers,  and  the  offspring  taken  soon  out  of  their 
laps. 

What  do  you  think  has  become  of  the  young  and  old  men? 
And  what  do  you  think  has  become  of  the  women  and  children? 

They  are  alive  and  well  somewhere, 

The  smallest  sprout  shows  there  is  really  no  death, 

And  if  ever  there  was  it  led  forward  life,  and  does  not  wait  at  the  end  to  arrest  it> 

And  ceas'd  the  moment  life  appeared. 

All  goes  onward  and  outward,  nothing  collapses, 

And  to  die  is  different  from  what  anyone  supposed,  and  luckier. 

7 

Has  anyone  supposed  it  lucky  to  be  born? 

I  hasten  to  inform  him  or  her  it  is  just  as  lucky  to  die,  and  I  know  it. 

I  pass  death  with  the  dying  and  birth  with  tne  new-wash'd  babe,  and  am  not 

contam'd  between  my  hat  and  boots, 

And  peruse  manifold  objects,  no  two  alike  and  every  one  good, 
The  earth  good  and  the  stars  good,  and  their  adjuncts  all  good. 


48  WALT  WHITMAN 

I  am  not  an  earth  nor  an  adjunct  of  an  earth, 

I  am  the  mate  and  companion  of  people,  all  just  as  immortal  and  fathomless  as 

myself, 

(They  do  not  know  how  immortal,  but  I  know.) 
Every  kind  for  itself  and  its  own,  for  me  mine  male  and  female, 
For  me  those  that  have  been  boys  and  that  love  women, 
For  me  the  man  that  is  proud  and  feels  how  it  stings  to  be  slighted, 
For  me  the  sweet-heart  and  the  old  maid,  for  me  mothers  and  the  mothers  of 

mothers, 

For  me  lips  that  have  smiled,  eyes  that  have  shed  tears, 
For  me  children  and  the  begetters  of  children. 

Undrape'  you  are  not  guilty  to  me,  nor  stale  nor  discarded, 

I  see  through  the  broadcloth  and  gingham  whether  or  no, 

And  am  around,  tenacious,  acquisitive,  tireless,  and  cannot  be  shaken  away. 

8 

The  little  one  sleeps  in  its  cradle, 
I  lift  the  gauze  and  look  a  long  time,  and  silently  brush  away  flies  with  my  hand. 

The  youngster  and  the  red-laced  gill  turn  aside  up  the  bushy  hill, 
I  peeringly  view  them  from  the  top. 

The  suicide  sprawls  on  the  bloody  floor  of  the  bedroom, 

I  witness  the  corpse  with  its  dabbled  hair,  I  note  where  the  pistol  has  fallen. 

The  blab  of  the  pave,  tires  of  carts,  slufT  of  boot-soles,  talk  of  the  promenaders, 
The  heavy  omnibus,  the  driver  with  his  interrogating  thumb,  the  clank  of  the  shod 

horses  on  the  granite  floor, 

The  snow-sleighs,  clinking,  shouted  jokes,  pelts  of  snow-balls, 
The  hurrahs  for  popular  favorites,  the  fury  of  rous'd  mobs, 
The  flap  of  the  curtam'd  litter,  a  sick  man  inside  borne  to  the  hospital, 
The  meeting  of  enemies,  the  sudden  oath,  the  blows  and  fall, 
The  excited  crowd,  the  policeman  with  his  star  quickly  working  his  passage  to  the 

center  of  the  crowd, 

The  impassive  stones  that  receive  and  return  so  many  echoes, 
What  groans  of  over-fed  or  half-star v'd  who  fall  sunstruck  or  in  fits, 
What  exclamations  of  women  taken  suddenly  who  hurry  home  and  give  birth  to 

babes, 
What  living  and  buried  speech  is  always  vibrating  here,  what  howls  restrained  by 

decorum, 
Arrests  of  criminals,  slights,  adulterous  offers  made,  acceptances,  rejections  with 

convex  lips, 
I  mind  them  or  the  show  or  resonance  of  them — I  come  and  I  depart. 

9 

The  big  doors  of  the  country  barn  stand  open  and  ready, 
The  dried  grass  of  the  harvest-time  loads  the  slow-drawn  wagon, 
The  clear  light  plays  on  the  brown  gray  and  green  intertinged, 
The  armfuls  are  pack'd  to  the  sagging  mow. 


WALT   WHITMAN  49 

I  am  there,  I  help,  I  came  stretch 'd  atop  of  the  load, 

I  felt  its  soft  jolts,  one  leg  reclined  on  the  other, 

I  jump  from  the  cross-beams  and  seize  the  clover  and  timothy, 

And  roll  head  over  heels  and  tangle  my  hair  full  of  wisps. 

10 

Alone  far  in  the  wilds  and  mountains  I  hunt, 

Wandering  amazed  at  my  own  lightness  and  glee, 

In  the  late  afternoon  choosing  a  safe  spot  to  pass  the  night, 

Kindling  a  fire  and  broiling  the  fresh-kill'd  game, 

Falling  asleep  on  the  gathered  leaves  with  my  dog  and  gun  by  my  side. 

The  Yankee  clipper  is  under  her  sky-sails,  she  cuts  the  sparkle  and  scud, 
My  eyes  settle  the  land,  I  bend  at  her  prow  or  shout  joyously  from  the  deck* 

The  boatmen  and  clam-diggers  arose  early  and  stopt  for  me, 

I  tuck'd  my  trowser-ends  in  my  boots  and  went  and  had  a  good  time; 

You  should  have  been  with  us  that  day  round  the  chowdcr-kcttlc. 

I  saw  the  marriage  of  the  trapper  in  the  open  air  in  the  far  west,  the  bride  was  a 

red  girl, 
Her  father  and  his  friends  sat  near  cross-legged  and  dumbly  smoking,  they  had 

moccasins  to  their  feet  and  large  thick  blankets  hanging  troni  their  shoulders, 
On  a  bank  lounged  the  trapper,  he  was  drcst  mostly  in  skins,  his  luxuriant  beard 

and  curls  protected  his  neck,  he  held  his  bride  by  the  hand, 
She  had  long  eyelashes,  her  head  was  bare,  her  coarse  straight  locks  descended  upon 

her  voluptuous  limbs  and  rcach'd  to  her  feet. 

The  runaway  slave  came  to  my  house  and  stopt  outside, 

I  heard  his  motions  crackling  the  twigs  of  the  woodpile, 

Through  the  swung  half-door  of  the  kitchen  I  saw  him  limpsy  and  weak, 

And  went  where  he  sat  on  a  log  and  led  him  in  and  assured  him, 

And  brought  water  and  fill'd  a  tub  for  his  sweated  body  and  bruis'd  feet, 

And  gave  him  a  room  that  entcr'd  from  my  own,  and  gave  him  some  coarse  clean 

clothes, 

And  remember  perfectly  well  his  revolving  eyes  and  his  awkwardness, 
And  remember  putting  plasters  on  the  galls  of  his  neck  and  ankles; 
He  staid  with  me  a  week  before  he  was  recuperated  and  pas&'d  north, 
I  had  him  sit  next  me  at  table,  my  fire-lock  lean'd  in  the  corner. 

ii 

Twenty-eight  young  men  bathe  by  the  shore. 

Twenty-eight  young  men  and  all  so  friendly; 

Twenty-eight  years  of  womanly  life  and  ail  so  lonesome. 

She  owns  the  fine  house  by  the  rise  of  the  bank, 

She  hides  handsome  and  richly  drest  aft  the  blinds  of  the  window. 

Which  of  the  young  men  does  she  like  the  best? 
Ah  the  homeliest  of  them  is  beautiful  to  her. 


50  WALT   WHITMAN 

Where  are  you  off  to,  lady?  for  I  see  you, 

You  splash  in  the  water  there,  yet  stay  stock  still  in  your  room. 

Dancing  and  laughing  along  the  beach  came  the  twenty-ninth  bather, 
The  rest  did  not  see  her,  but  she  saw  them  and  loved  them. 

The  beards  of  the  young  men  ghsten'd  with  wet,  it  ran  from  their  long  hair, 
Little  streams  pass'd  all  over  their  bodies. 

An  Unseen  hand  also  pass'd  over  their  bodies, 

It  descended  tremblingly  from  their  temples  and  ribs. 

The  young  men  float  on  their  backs,  their  white  bellies  bulge  to  the  sun,  they  do 

not  ask  who  seizes  fast  to  them, 

They  do  not  know  who  puffs  and  declines  with  pendant  and  bending  arch, 
They  do  not  think  whom  they  souse  with  spray. 


The  wild  gander  leads  his  flock  through  the  cool  night, 
Ya-hon^  he  says,  and  sounds  it  down  to  me  like  an  invitation, 
The  pert  may  suppose  it  meaningless,  but  I  listening  close, 
Find  its  purpose  and  place  up  there  toward  the  wintry  sky. 

The  sharp-hoof  d  moose  of  the  north,  the  cat  on  the  house-sill,  the  chickadee,  the 

prairie-dog, 

The  litter  of  the  grunting  sow  as  they  tug  at  her  teats, 
The  brood  of  the  turkey-hen  and  she  with  her  half-spread  wings, 
I  sec  in  them  and  myself  the  same  old  law. 

The  press  of  rny  foot  to  the  earth  springs  a  hundred  affections, 
They  scorn  the  best  I  can  do  to  relate  them. 

I  am  anamour'd  of  growing  out-doors, 

Of  men  that  live  among  cattle  or  taste  of  the  ocean  or  woods, 

Of  the  builders  and  steercrs  of  ships  and  the  wielders  of  axes  and  mauls,  and  the 

drivers  of  horses, 
I  can  eat  and  sleep  with  them  week  in  and  week  out. 

What  is  commonest,  cheapest,  nearest,  easiest,  is  Me, 
Me  going  in  for  my  chances,  spending  for  vast  returns, 
Adorning  myself  to  bestow  myself  on  the  first  that  will  take  me, 
Not  asking  the  sky  to  come  down  to  my  good  will, 
Scattering  it  freely  forever. 

15 

The  pure  contralto  sings  in  the  organ  loft, 
The  carpenter  dresses  his  plank,  the  tongue  of  his  foreplane  whistles  its  wild  ascend- 

ing lisp, 

The  married  and  unmarried  children  ride  home  to  their  Thanksgiving  dinner, 
The  pilot  seizes  the  king-pin,  he  heaves  down  with  a  strong  arm, 
The  mate  stands  braced  in  the  whale-boat,  lance  and  harpoon  are  ready, 


WALT   WHITMAN  57 

The  duck-shooter  walks  by  silent  and  cautious  stretches, 

The  deacons  are  ordam'd  with  cross'd  hands  at  the  altar, 

The  spinning-girl  retreats  and  advances  to  the  hum  of  the  big  wheel, 

The  farmer  stops  by  the  bars  as  he  walks  on  a  First-day  loaf  and  looks  at  the  oats 

and  rye, 

The  lunatic  is  carried  at  last  to  the  asylum  a  confirm'd  case, 
(He  will  never  sleep  any  more  as  he  did  in  the  cot  in  his  mother's  bedroom;) 
The  jour  printer  with  gray  head  and  gaunt  jaws  works  at  his  case, 
He  turns  his  quid  of  tobacco  while  his  eyes  blur  with  the  manuscript; 
The  malform'd  limbs  are  tied  to  the  surgeon's  table, 
What  is  removed  drops  horribly  in  a  pail; 

The  quadroon  girl  is  sold  at  the  auction-stand,  the  drunkard  nods  by  the  bar- 
room stove, 
The  machinist  rolls  up  his  sleeves,  the  policeman  travels  his  beat,  the  gate-keeper 

marks  who  pass, 
The  young  fellow  drives  the  express-wagon,  (I  love  him,  though  T  do  not  know 

him;) 

The  halt-breed  straps  on  his  light  boots  lo  compete  in  the  race, 
The  western  turkey-shooting  draws  old  and  young,  some  lean  on  their  rifles,  some 

sit  on  logs, 

Out  from  the  crowd  steps  the  marksman,  takes  his  position,  levels  his  piece; 
The  groups  of  newly-come  immigrants  cover  the  wharf  or  levee, 
As  the  woolly-pates  hoe  m  the  sugar-field,  the  overseer  views  them  Irom  his  saddle, 
The  bugle  calls  in  the  ball-room,  the  gentlemen  run  for  their  partners,  the  dancers 

bow  to  each  other, 

The  youth  lies  awake  in  the  cedar-roof'd  garret  and  harks  to  the  musical  ram, 
The  Wolverine  sets  traps  on  the  creek  that  helps  fill  the  Huron, 
The  squaw  wrapt  in  her  yellow-hcmm'd  cloth  is  offering  moccasins  and  bead-bags 

for  sale, 

The  connoisseur  peers  along  the  exhibition-gallery  with  half-shut  eyes  bent  sideways, 
As  the  deck-hands  make  fast  the  steamboat  the  plank  is  thrown  for  the  shore-going 

passengers, 
The  young  sister  holds  out  the  skein  while  the  elder  sister  winds  it  off  in  a  ball,  and 

stops  now  and  then  for  the  knots, 

The  one-year  wife  is  recovering  and  happy  having  a  week  ago  borne  her  first  child, 
The  clean-hair'd  Yankee  girl  works  with  her  sewing  machine  or  in  the  factory  or 

mill, 
The  paving-man  leans  on  his  two-handed  rammer,  the  reporter's  lead  flies  swiftly 

over  the  note-book,  the  sign-painter  is  lettering  with  blue  and  gold, 
The  canal  boy  trots  on  the  tow-path,  the  book-keeper  counts  at  his  desk,  the  shoe- 
maker waxes  his  thread, 

The  conductor  beats  time  for  the  band  and  all  the  performers  follow  him, 
The  child  is  baptized,  the  convert  is  making  his  first  profession, 
The  regatta  is  spread  on  the  bay,  the  race  is  begun,  (how  the  white  sails  sparkle!) 
The  drover  watching  his  drove  sings  out  to  them  that  would  stray, 
The  peddler  sweats  with  his  pack  on  his  back,  (the  purchaser  higgling  about  the 

odd  cent;) 

The  bride  unrumples  her  white  dress,  the  minute-hand  of  the  clock  moves  slowly, 
The  opium-eater  reclines  with  rigid  head  and  just-open'd  lips, 
The  prostitute  draggles  her  shawl,  her  bonnet  bobs  on  her  tipsy  and  pimpled  neck, 


52  WALT   WHITMAN 

The  crowd  laugh  at  her  blackguard  oaths,  the  men  jeer  and  wink  to  each  other, 

(Miserable!  I  do  not  laugh  at  your  oaths  nor  jeer  you;) 

The  President  holding  a  cabinet  council  is  surrounded  by  the  great  Secretaries, 

On  the  piazza,  walk  three  matrons  stately  and  friendly  with  twined  arms, 

The  crew  of  the  fish-smack  pack  repeated  layers  of  halibut  in  the  hold, 

Coon-seekers  go  through  the  regions  of  the  Red  river  or  through  those  drain'd  by 

the  Tennessee,  or  through  those  of  the  Arkansas, 

Torches  shine  m  the  dark  that  hangs  on  the  Chattahooche  or  Aitamahaw, 
Patriarchs  sit  at  supper  with  sons  and  grandsons  and  great  grandsons  around  them, 
In  walls  of  adobie,  in  canvas  tents,  rest  hunters  and  trappers  after  their  day's  sport 
The  city  sleeps  and  the  country  sleeps, 
The  living  sleep  for  their  time,  the  dead  sleep  for  their  time, 
The  old  husband  sleeps  by  his  wife  and  the  young  husband  sleeps  by  his  wife; 
And  these  tend  inward  to  me,  and  I  tend  outward  to  them, 
And  such  as  it  is  to  be  of  these  more  or  less  I  am, 
And  of  these  one  and  all  1  weave  the  song  of  myself. 

18 

With  music  strong  I  come,  with  my  cornets  and  my  drums, 

I  play  not  marches  for  accepted  victors  only,  I  play  marches  for  conquer'd  and 
slam  persons.  . 

Have  you  heard  that  it  was  good  to  gain  the  day? 

I  also  say  it  is  good  to  fall,  battles  are  lost  m  the  same  spirit  in  which  they  are  won. 

I  beat  and  pound  for  the  dead, 

I  blow  through  my  embouchures  my  loudest  and  gayest  for  them. 

Vivas  to  those  who  have  fail'd! 

And  to  those  whose  war- vessels  sank  m  the  sea' 

And  to  those  themselves  who  sank  m  the  sea' 

And  to  all  generals  that  lost  engagements,  and  all  overcome  heroes' 

And  the  numberless  unknown  heroes  equal  to  the  greatest  heroes  known  I 

19 

This  is  the  meal  equally  set,  this  the  meat  for  natural  hunger, 

It  is  for  the  wicked  just  the  same  as  the  righteous,  I  make  appointments  with  all, 
I  will  not  have  a  single  person  slighted  or  left  away, 
The  kept-woman,  sponger,  thief,  are  hereby  invited, 
There  shall  be  no  difference  between  them  and  the  rest. 

This  is  the  press  of  a  bashful  hand,  this  the  float  and  odor  of  hair, 
This  the  touch  of  my  lips  to  yours,  this  the  murmur  of  yearning, 
This  the  far-oil  depth  and  height  reflecting  my  own  face, 
This  the  thoughtful  meige  of  myself,  and  the  outlet  again. 
Do  you  guess  I  have  some  intricate  purpose? 

Well  I  have,  for  the  Fourth-month  showers  have,  and  the  mica  on  the  side  of  the 
rock  has. 

Do  you  take  it  I  would  astonish? 

Does  the  daylight  astonish?  does  the  early  redstart  twittering  through  the  woods? 

Do  I  astonish  more  than  thev? 


WALT   WHITMAN  5J 

This  hour  I  tell  things  in  confidence, 

I  might  not  tell  everybody,  but  I  will  tell  you. 

20 

Who  goes  there?  hankering,  gross,  mystical,  nude; 
How  is  it  I  extract  strength  from  the  beef  I  eat? 

What  is  a  man  anyhow?  what  am  I?  what  are  you? 

All  I  mark  as  my  own  you  shall  offset  it  with  your  own, 
Else  it  were  time  lost  listening  to  me. 

I  do  not  snivel  that  snivel  the  world  over, 

That  months  are  vacuums  and  the  ground  but  wallow  and  filth. 

Whimpering  and  truckling  fold  with  powders  for  invalids,  coniormity  goes  to  the 

fourth-removed, 
I  wear  my  hat  as  I  please  indoors  or  out. 

Why  should  I  pray?  why  should  I  venerate  and  be  ceremonious? 

Having  pried  through  the  strata,  analyzed  to  a  hair,  counscl'd  with  doctors  and 

calculated  close, 
I  find  no  sweeter  tat  than  sticks  to  my  own  bones. 

In  all  people  I  see  myself,  none  more  and  not  one  a  barleycorn  less, 

And  the  good  or  bad  I  say  of  myself  I  say  of  them. 

I  know  I  am  solid  and  sound, 

To  me  the  converging  objects  of  the  universe  perpetually  flow, 

All  are  written  to  me,  and  I  must  get  what  the  writing  means. 

I  know  I  am  deathless, 

I  know  this  orbit  of  mine  cannot  be  swept  by  a  carpenter's  compass, 

I  know  I  shall  not  pass  like  a  child's  carlacue  cut  with  a  burnt  stick  at  night. 

I  know  I  am  august^ 

I  do  not  trouble  my  spirit  to  vindicate  itself  or  be  understood, 

I  see  that  the  elementary  laws  never  apologize, 

(I  reckon  I  behave  no  prouder  than  the  level  I  plant  my  house  by,  after  all.) 

I  exist  as  I  am,  that  is  enough, 

If  no  other  in  the  world  be  aware  I  sit  content, 

And  if  each  and  all  be  aware  I  sit  content. 

One  world  is  aware  and  by  far  the  largest  to  me,  and  that  is  myself, 

And  whether  I  come  to  my  own  today  or  in  ten  thousand  or  ten  million  years, 

I  can  cheerfully  take  it  now,  or  with  equal  cheerfulness  I  can  wait. 

My  foothold  is  tenon'd  and  mortis'd  in  granite, 
I  laugh  at  what  you  call  dissolution, 
And  I  know  the  amplitude  of  time. 


54  WALT   WHITMAN 

21 

I  am  the  poet  of  the  Body  and  I  am  the  poet  of  the  Soul, 

The  pleasures  of  heaven  are  with  me  and  the  pains  of  hell  are  with  me, 

The  first  I  graft  and  increase  upon  myself,  the  latter  I  translate  into  a  new  tongue, 

I  am  the  poet  of  the  woman  the  same  as  the  man, 

And  I  say  it  is  as  great  to  be  a  woman  as  to  be  a  man, 

And  I  say  there  is  nothing  greater  than  the  mother  of  men. 

I  chant  the  chant  of  dilation  or  pride, 

We  have  had  ducking  and  deprecating  about  enough, 

I  show  that  size  is  only  development. 

Have  you  outstript  the  rest?  are  you  the  President? 

It  is  a  trifle,  they  will  more  than  arrive  there  every  one,  and  still  pass  on. 

I  am  he  that  walks  with  the  tender  and  growing  night, 
I  call  to  the  earth  and  sea  half-held  by  the  night. 

Press  close  bare-bosom'd  night — press  close  magnetic  nourishing  night! 
Night  of  south  winds — night  of  the  large  few  stars! 
Still  nodding  night — mad  naked  summer  night. 

Smile  O  voluptuous  cool-breath'd  earth' 

Earth  of  the  slumbering  and  liquid  trees! 

Earth  of  departed  sunset — earth  of  the  mountains  misty-topt! 

Earth  of  the  vitreous  pour  of  the  full  moon  just  tinged  with  blue! 

Earth  of  shine  and  dark  mottling  the  tide  of  the  river! 

Earth  of  the  limpid  gray  of  clouds  brighter  and  clearer  for  my  sake! 

Far-swooping  clbow'd  earth — rich  apple-blossom'd  earth! 

Smile,  for  your  lover  comes. 

Prodigal,  you  have  given  me  love — therefore  I  to  you  give  love! 

0  unspeakable  passionate  love. 

22 

You  sea'  I  resign  myself  to  you  also — I  guess  what  you  mean, 

1  behold  from  the  beach  your  crooked  inviting  fingers, 
I  believe  you  refuse  to  go  back  without  feeling  of  me, 

We  must  have  a  turn  together,  I  undress,  hurry  me  out  of  sight  of  the  land, 
Cushion  me  soft,  rock  me  in  billowy  drowse, 
Dash  me  with  amorous  wet,  I  can  repay  you. 

Sea  of  stfetch'd  ground-swells, 

Sea  breathing  broad  and  convulsive  breaths, 

Sea  of  the  brine  of  life  and  of  unshovel'd  yet  always-ready  graves, 

Howler  and  scooper  of  storms,  capricious  and  dainty  sea, 

I  am  integral  with  you,  I  too  am  of  one  phase  and  of  all  phases. 

Partaker  of  influx  and  efflux  I,  extoller  of  hate  and  conciliation, 
Extoller  of  amies  *  and  those  that  sleep  in  each  other's  arms. 

1  Friends,  as  distinguished  from  lovers. 


WALT   WHITMAN  55 

I  am  he  attesting  sympathy, 

(Shall  I  make  my  list  of  things  in  the  house  and  skip  the  house  that  supports  them?) 

I  am  not  the  poet  of  goodness  only,  I  do  not  decline  to  be  the  poet  of  wickedness  also 

What  blurt  is  this  about  virtue  and  about  vice? 

Evil  propels  me  and  reform  of  evil  propels  me,  I  stand  indifferent, 

My  gait  is  no  fault-finder's  or  rejecter's  gait, 

I  moisten  the  roots  of  all  that  has  grown. 

Did  you  fear  some  scrofula  out  of  the  unflagging  pregnancy? 

Did  you  guess  the  celestial  laws  are  yet  to  be  work'd  over  and  rectified? 

I  find  one  side  a  balance  and  the  antipodal  side  a  balance, 

Soft  doctrine  as  steady  help  as  stable  doctrine, 

Thoughts  and  deeds  of  the  present  our  rouse  and  early  start. 

This  minute  that  comes  to  me  over  the  past  decilhons, 
There  is  no  better  than  it  and  now. 

What  behaved  well  in  the  past  or  behaves  well  today  is  not  such  a  wonder, 
The  wonder  is  always  and  always  how  there  can  be  a  mean  man  or  an  infidel. 

25 

Dazzling  and  tremendous  how  quick  the  sunrise  would  kill  me, 
If  I  could  not  now  and  always  send  sun-rise  out  of  rne. 

We  also  ascend  dazzling  and  tremendous  as  the  sun, 

We  found  our  own  O  my  soul  in  the  calm  and  cool  of  the  daybreak. 

My  voice  goes  after  what  my  eyes  cannot  reach, 

With  the  twirl  of  my  tongue  I  encompass  worlds  and  volumes  of  worlds. 

Speech  is  the  twin  of  my  vision,  it  is  unequal  to  measure  itself, 

It  provokes  me  forever,  it  says  sarcastically, 

Walt  you  contain  enough,  why  don't  you  let  it  out  then? 

Come  now  I  will  not  be  tantalized,  you  conceive  too  much  of  articulation, 

Do  you  not  know  O  speech  how  the  buds  beneath  you  arc  folded? 

Waiting  in  gloom,  protected  by  frost, 

The  dirt  receding  before  my  prophetical  screams, 

I  underlying  causes  to  balance  them  at  last, 

My  knowledge  my  live  parts,  it  keeping  tally  with  the  meaning  of  all  things, 

Happiness,  (which  whoever  hears  me  let  him  or  her  set  out  in  search  of  this  day.) 

My  final  merit  I  refuse  you,  I  refuse  putting  from  me  what  I  really  am, 

Encompass  worlds,  but  never  try  to  encompass  me, 

I  crowd  your  sleekest  and  best  by  simply  looking  toward  you. 

Writing  and  talking  do  not  prove  me, 

I  carry  the  plenum  of  proof  and  every  thing  else  in  my  face, 

With  the  hush  of  my  lips  I  wholly  confound  the  skeptic. 


56  WALT   WHITMAN 

3° 

All  truths  wait  in  all  things, 

They  neither  hasten  their  own  delivery  nor  resist  it, 

They  do  not  need  the  obstetric  forceps  of  the  surgeon, 

The  insignificant  is  as  big  to  me  as  any, 

(What  is  less  or  more  than  a  touch  ?) 

Logic  and  sermons  never  convince, 

The  damp  of  the  night  drives  deeper  into  my  soul. 

(Only  what  proves  itself  to  every  man  and  woman  is  so, 
Only  what  nobody  denies  is  so.) 

A  minute  and  a  drop  of  me  settle  my  brain, 

I  believe  the  soggy  clods  shall  become  lovers  and  lamps, 

And  a  compcnd  o£  compends  is  the  meat  of  a  man  or  woman, 

And  a  summit  and  flower  there  is  the  feeling  they  have  for  each  other, 

And  they  are  to  branch  boundlessly  out  of  that  lesson  until  it  becomes  omnific, 

And  until  one  and  all  shall  delight  us,  and  we  them. 


I  believe  a  leaf  of  grass  is  no  less  than  the  journeywork  of  the  stars, 

And  the  pismire  is  equally  perfect,  and  a  grain  of  sand,  and  the  egg  of  the  wren, 

And  the  tree-toad  is  a  chef-d'oeuvre  for  the  highest, 

And  the  running  blackberry  would  adorn  the  parlors  of  heaven, 

And  the  narrowest  hinge  m  my  hand  puts  to  scorn  all  machinery, 

And  the  cow  crunching  with  depressed  head  surpasses  any  statue, 

And  a  mouse  is  miracle  enough  to  stagger  sextilhons  of  infidels. 

•  v  t 

I  find  I  incorporate  gneiss,  coal,  long-threaded  moss,  fruits,  grains,  esculent  roots, 

And  am  stucco'd  with  quadrupeds  and  birds  all  over, 

And  have  distanced  what  is  behind  me  for  good  reasons, 

But  call  any  thing  back  again  when  I  desire  it. 

In  vairi  the  speeding  or  shyness, 

In  vain  the  plutomc  rocks  send  their  old  heat  against  my  approach, 

In  vain  the  mastodon  retreats  beneath  its  own  powder'd  bones, 

In  vain  objects  stand  leagues  off.  and  assume  manifold  shapes, 

In  vain  the  ocean  settling  in  hollows  and  the  great  monsters  lying  low, 

In  vain  the  buzzard  houses  herself  with  the  sky, 

In  vain  the  snake  slides  through  the  creepers  and  logs, 

In  vain  the  elk  takes  to  the  inner  passes  of  the  woods, 

In  vain  the  razor-bill'd  auk  sails  far  north  to  Labrador, 

I  follow  quickly,  I  ascend  to  the  nest  in  the  fissure  of  the  cliff. 

32 

I  think  I  could  turn  and  live  with  animals,  they  are  so  placid  and  self-contam'd, 
I  stand  and  look  at  them  long  and  long. 

They  do  not  sweat  and  whine  about  their  condition, 
They  do  not  he  awake  m  the  dark  and  weep  for  their  sins, 


WALT   WHITMAN  57 

They  do  not  make  me  sick  discussing  their  duty  to  God, 
Not  one  is  dissatisfied,  not  one  is  demented  with  the  mania  of  owning  things, 
Not  one  kneels  to  another,  nor  to  his  kind  that  lived  thousands  of  years  ago, 
Not  one  is  respectable  or  unhappy  over  the  whole  earth. 

So  they  show  their  relations  to  me  and  I  accept  them, 

They  bring  me  tokens  of  myself,  they  evince  them  plainly  in  their  possession. 

I  wonder  where  they  get  those  tokens, 

Did  I  pass  that  way  huge  times  ago  and  negligently  drop  them? 

Myself  moving  forward  then  and  now  and  forever, 

Gathering  and  showing  more  always  and  with  velocity, 

Infinite  and  omnigenous,  and  the  like  of  these  among  them, 

Not  too  exclusive  toward  the  reachers  of  my  remembrancers, 

Picking  out  here  one  that  I  love,  and  now  go  with  him  on  brotherly  terms. 

A  gigantic  beauty  of  a  stallion,  fresh  and  responsive  to  my  caresses, 

Head  high  in  the  forehead,  wide  between  the  ears, 

Limbs  glossy  and  supple,  tail  dusting  the  ground, 

Eyes  full  of  sparkling  wickedness,  ears  finely  cut,  flexibly  moving. 

His  nostrils  dilate  as  my  heels  embrace  him, 

His  well-built  limbs  tremble  with  pleasure  as  we  race  around  and  return. 

I  but  use  you  a  minute,  then  I  resign  you,  stallion, 

Why  do  I  need  your  paces  when  I  myself  out-gallop  them? 

Even  as  I  stand  or  sit  passing  faster  than  you. 

35 

Would  you  hear  of  an  old-time  sea-fight ? 

Would  you  learn  who  won  by  the  light  of  the  moon  and  stars? 
List  to  the  yarn,  as  my  grandmother's  father  the  sailor  told  it  to  me. 

Our  foe  was  no  skulk  in  his  ship  I  tell  you,  (said  he,) 

His  was  the  surly  English  pluck,  and  there  is  no  tougher  or  truer,  and  never  was, 

and  never  will  be; 
Along  the  lower'd  eve  he  came  horribly  raking  us. 

We  closed  with  him,  the  yards  entangled,  the  cannon  touch'd, 
My  captain  lash'd  fast  with  his  own  hands. 

We  had  rcceiv'd  some  eighteen  pound  shots  under  trie  water, 
On  our  lower-gun-deck  two  large  pieces  had  burst  at  the  first  fire,  killing  all  around 
and  blowing  up  overhead. 

Fighting  at  sun-down,  fighting  at  dark, 

Ten  o'clock  at  night,  the  full  moon  well  up,  our  leaks  on  the  gain,  and  five  feet  of 

water  reported, 
The  master-at-arms  loosing  the  prisoners  confined  in  the  afterhold  to  give  them  a 

chance  for  themselves. 

The  transit  to  and  from  the  magazine  is  now  stopt  by  the  sentinels, 
They  see  so  many  strange  faces  they  do  not  know  whom  to  trust. 


5«  WALT  WHITMAN 

Our  frigate  takes  fire, 

The  other  asks  if  we  demand  quarter? 

If  our  colors  are  struck  and  the  fighting  done? 

Mow  I  lau^h  content,  for  I  hear  the  voice  of  my  little  captain, 

We  have  not  stmc\,  he  composedly  cries,  we  have  just  begun  our  part  of  the  fighting. 

Only  three  guns  are  in  use, 

One  is  directed  by  the  captain  himself  against  the  enemy's  mainmast, 

Two  well  serv'd  with  grape  and  canister  silence  his  musketry  and  clear  his  decks. 

The  tops  alone  second  the  fire  of  this  little  battery,  especially  the  main-top, 
They  hold  out  bravely  during  the  whole  of  the  action. 

Not  a  moment's  cease. 

The  leaks  gain  fast  on  the  pumps,  the  fire  eats  toward  the  powder-magazine. 

One  of  the  pumps  has  been  shot  away,  it  is  generally  thought  we  are  sinking. 

lerene  stands  the  little  captain, 

He  is  not  hurried,  his  voice  is  neither  high  nor  low, 
His  eyes  give  more  light  to  us  than  our  battle-lanterns. 

Toward  twelve  there  in  the  beams  of  the  moon  they  surrender  to  us. 

36 

Stretch'd  and  still  lies  the  midnight, 

Two  great  hulls  motionless  on  the  breast  of  the  darkness, 

Our  vessel  riddled  and  slowly  sinking,  preparations  to  pass  to  the  one  we  have 
conquered, 

The  captain  on  the  quarter-deck  coldly  giving  his  orders  through  a  countenance 
white  as  a  sheet, 

^ear  by  the  corpse  of  the  child  that  serv'd  in  the  cabin, 

The  dead  face  of  an  old  salt  with  long  white  hair  and  carefully  curl'd  whiskers, 

The  flames  spite  of  all  that  can  be  done  flickering  aloft  and  below, 

The  husky  voices  of  the  two  or  three  officers  yet  fit  for  duty, 

Formless  stacks  of  bodies  and  bodies  by  themselves,  dabs  of  flesh  upon  the  masts  and 
spars, 

Cut  of  cordage,  dangle  of  rigging,  slight  shock  of  the  soothe  of  waves, 

Black  and  impassive  guns,  litter  of  powder-parcels,  strong  scent, 

A  few  large  stars  overhead,  silent  and  mournful  shining, 

Delicate  sniffs  of  sea-breeze,  smells  of  sedgy  grass  and  fields  by  the  shore,  death- 
messages  given  m  charge  to  survivors, 

The  hiss  of  the  surgeon's  knife,  the  gnawing  teeth  of  his  saw, 

Wheeze,  cluck,  swash  of  falling  blood,  short  wild  scream,  and  long,  dull,  tapering 
groan, 

These  so,  these  irretrievable. 

37 

You  laggards  there  on  guard!  look  to  your  arms' 
In  at  the  conquer'd  doors  they  crowd'  I  am  possess'dl 
Embody  all  presences  outlaw'd  or  suffering, 


WALT   WHITMAN 

See  myself  in  prison  shaped  like  another  man, 
And  feel  the  dull  intermitted  pain. 


59 


For  me  the  keepers  of  convicts  shoulder  their  carbines  and  keep  watch, 

It  is  I  let  out  in  the  morning  and  barr'd  at  night. 

Not  a  mutineer  walks  handcuff'd  to  jail  but  I  am  handcuiFd  to  him  and  walk  by 

his  side, 
(I  am  less  the  jolly  one  there,  and  more  the  silent  one  with  sweat  on  my  twitching 

hps.) 

Not  a  youngster  is  taken  for  larceny  but  I  go  up  too,  and  am  tried  and  sentenced. 

Not  a  cholera  patient  lies  at  the  last  gasp  but  I  also  he  at  the  last  gasp, 
My  face  is  ash-color'd,  my  sinews  gnarl,  away  from  me  people  retreat. 

Askcrs  embody  themselves  in  me  and  I  am  embodied  in  them, 
I  project  my  hat,  sit  shame-faced,  and  beg. 

38 

Enough'  enough'  enough' 

Somehow  I  have  been  stunn'd.  Stand  back' 

Give  me  a  little  time  beyond  my  curl'd  head,  slumbers,  dreams,  gaping, 

I  discover  myself  on  the  verge  of  a  usual  mistake. 

That  I  could  forget  the  mockers  and  insults' 

That  I  could  forget  the  trickling  tears  and  the- blows  of  the  bludgeons  and  hammers! 

That  I  could  look  with  a  separate  look  on  my  own  crucifixion  and  bloody  crowning! 

I  remember  now, 

I  resume  the  overstaid  fraction, 

The  grave  of  rock  multiplies  what  has  been  confided  to  it,  or  to  any  graves, 

Corpses  rise,  gashes  heal,  fastenings  roll  from  me. 

I  troop  forth  replenished  with  supreme  power,  one  of  an  avciagc  unending  pro- 
cession, 

Inland  and  sea-coast  we  go,  and  pass  all  boundary  lines, 
Our  swift  ordinances  on  their  way  over  the  whole  earth, 
The  blossoms  we  wear  in  our  hats  the  growth  of  thousands  of  years. 

40 

Flaunt  of  the  sunshine  I  need  not  your  bask — he  over' 
You  light  surfaces  only,  I  force  surfaces  and  depths  also. 

Earth!  you  seem  to  look  for  something  at  my  hands, 
Say,  old  top-knot,  what  do  you  want? 

Behold,  I  do  not  give  lectures  or  a  little  charity, 
When  I  give  I  give  myself. 

You  there,  impotent,  loose  in  the  knees, 

Open  your  scarfd  chops  till  I  blow  grit  within  you 


60  WALT   WHITMAN 

Spread  your  palms  and  lift  the  flaps  of  your  pockets, 

I  am  not  to  be  denied,  I  compel,  I  have  stores  plenty  and  to  spare, 

And  any  thing  I  have  I  bestow. 

I  do  not  ask  who  you  are,  that  is  not  important  to  me, 

You  can  do  nothing  and  be  nothing  but  what  I  will  infold  you. 

To  cotton-field  drudge  or  cleaner  of  privies  I  lean, 

On  his  right  cheek  I  put  the  family  kiss, 

And  in  my  soul  I  swear  I  never  will  deny  him. 

To  anyone  dying,  thither  I  speed  and  twist  the  knob  of  the  door, 
Turn  the  bed-clothes  toward  the  foot  of  the  bed, 
Let  the  physician  and  the  priest  go  home. 

I  seize  the  descending  man  and  raise  him  with  resistless  will, 

0  despairer,  here  is  my  neck, 

By  God,  you  shall  not  go  down!  hang  your  whole  weight  upon  me. 

44 
It  is  time  to  explain  myself — let  us  stand  up. 

What  is  known  I  strip  away, 

1  launch  all  men  and  women  forward  with  me  into  the  Unknown. 

The  clock  indicates  the  moment — but  what  docs  eternity  indicate? 

We  have  thus  far  exhausted  trillions  of  winters  and  summers, 
There  are  trillions  ahead,  and  trillions  ahead  ot  them. 

Rise  after  rise  bow  the  phantoms  behind  me, 
Afar  down  I  see  the  huge  first  Nothing,  I  know  I  was  even  there, 
I  waited  unseen  and  always,  and  slept  through  the  lethargic  mist, 
And  took  my  time,  and  took  no  hurt  from  the  fetid  carbon. 

Long  I  was  hugg'd  close — long  and  long. 
Immense  have  been  the  preparations  for  me, 
Faithful  and  friendly  the  arms  that  have  help'd  me. 

Cycles  ferried  my  cradle,  rowing  and  rowing  like  cheerful  boatmen, 
For  room  to  me  stars  kept  aside  in  their  own  rings, 
They  sent  influences  to  look  after  what  was  to  hold  me. 

Before  I  was  born  out  of  my  mother  generations  guided  me, 
My  embryo  has  never  been  torpid,  nothing  could  overlay  it. 

For  it  the  nebula  cohered  to  an  orb, 

The  long  slow  strata  piled  to  rest  it  on, 

Vast  vegetables  gave  it  sustenance, 

Monstrous  sauroids  transported  it  in  their  mouths  and  deposited  it  with  care. 


WALT   WHITMAN  fa 

All  forces  have  been  steadily  employed  to  complete  and  delight  me, 
Now  on  this  spot  I  stand  with  my  robust  soul. 


I  have  said  that  the  soul  is  not  more  than  the  body, 

And  I  have  said  that  the  body  is  not  more  than  the  soul, 

And  nothing,  not  God,  is  greater  to  one  than  one's  self  is, 

And  whoever  walks  a  furlong  without  sympathy  walks  to  his  own  funeral  drest 

in  his  shroud, 

And  I  or  you  pocketlcss  of  a  dime  may  purchase  the  pick  of  the  earth, 
And  to  glance  with  an  eye  or  show  a  bean  in  its  pod  confounds  the  learning  of  all 

times, 
And  there  is  no  trade  or  employment  but  the  young  man  following  it  may  become 

a  hero, 

And  there  is  no  object  so  soft  but  it  makes  a  hub  for  the  whcel'd  universe, 
And  I  say  to  any  man  or  woman,  Let  your  soul  stand  cool  and  composed  before  a 

million  universes. 

And  I  say  to  mankind,  Be  not  curious  about  God, 

For  I  who  am  curious  about  each  am  not  curious  about  God, 

(No  array  of  terms  can  say  how  much  I  am  at  peace  about  God  and  about  death.) 

I  hear  and  behold  God  in  every  object,  yet  understand  God  not  in  the  least, 
Nor  do  I  understand  who  there  can  be  more  wondcriul  than  myself. 

Why  should  I  wish  to  see  God  better  than  this  day? 

I  sec  something  of  God  each  hour  of  the  twenty-tour,  and  each  moment  then, 

In  the  faces  of  men  and  women  I  sec  God,  and  m  my  own  lace  in  the  glass, 

I  find  letters  from  God  dropt  in  the  street,  and  every  one  is  sign'd  by  God's  name, 

And  I  leave  them  where  they  aic,  for  I  know  that  wheresoever  I  go, 

Others  will  punctually  come  for  ever  and  ever. 

49 
And  as  to  you  Death,  and  you  bitter  hug  of  mortality,  it  is  idle  to  try  to  alarm  me. 

To  his  work  without  flinching  the  accoucheur  comes, 

I  see  the  elder-hand  pressing  receiving  supporting, 

I  recline  by  the  sills  of  the  exquisite  flexible  doors, 

And  mark  the  outlet,  and  mark  the  relief  and  escape. 

And  as  to  you  Corpse  I  think  you  are  good  manure,  but  that  does  not  offend  me, 

I  smell  the  white  roses  sweet-scented  and  growing, 

I  reach  to  the  leafy  lips,  I  reach  to  the  polish'd  breasts  of  melons. 

And  as  to  you  Life  I  reckon  you  arc  the  leavings  of  many  deaths, 
(No  doubt  I  have  died  myself  ten  thousand  times  before.) 

I  hear  you  whispering  there  O  stars  of  heaven, 

O  suns — ()  grass  of  graves — O  perpetual  transfers  and  promotions, 

If  you  do  not  say  any  thing  how  can  I  say  any  thing? 


62  WALT  WHITMAN 

Of  the  turbid  pool  that  lies  in  the  autumn  forest, 

Of  the  moon  that  descends  the  steeps  of  the  soughing  twilight, 

Toss,  sparkles  of  day  and  dusk  —  toss  on  the  black  stems  that  decay  in  the  muck, 

Toss  to  the  moaning  gibberish  of  the  dry  limbs. 

I  ascend  from  the  moon,  I  ascend  from  the  night, 

I  perceive  that  the  ghastly  glimmer  is  noonday  sunbeams  reflected, 

And  debouch  to  the  steady  and  central  from  the  offspring  great  or  small. 

5° 
There  is  that  in  me  —  I  do  not  know  what  it  is  —  but  I  know  it  is  in  me. 

Wrench'd  and  sweaty  —  calm  and  cool  then  my  body  becomes, 
I  sleep  —  I  sleep  long. 

I  do  not  know  it  —  it  is  without  name  —  it  is  a  word  unsaid, 
It  is  not  in  any  dictionary,  utterance,  symbol. 

Something  it  swings  on  more  than  the  earth  I  swing  on, 

To  it  the  creation  is  the  friend  whose  embracing  awakes  me. 

Perhaps  I  might  tell  more.  Outlines'  I  plead  for  my  brothers  and  sisters. 

Do  you  see  O  my  brothers  and  sisters'5 

It  is  not  chaos  or  death  —  it  is  form,  union,  plan  —  it  is  eternal  life  —  it  is  Happiness. 

51 

The  past  and  present  wilt  —  I  have  fill'd  them,  emptied  them, 
And  proceed  to  fill  my  next  fold  of  the  future. 

Listener  up  there'  what  have  you  to  confide  to  me? 
Look  in  my  face  while  I  snuff  the  sidle  of  evening, 
(Talk  honestly,  no  one  else  hears  you,  and  I  stay  only  a  minute  longer.) 

Do  I  contradict  myself? 

Very  well  then  I  contradict  myself, 

(I  am  large,  I  contain  multitudes.) 

I  concentrate  toward  them  that  are  nigh,  I  wait  on  the  door-slab. 

Who  has  done  his  day's  work?  who  will  soonest  be  through  with  his  supper? 
Who  wishes  to  walk  with  me? 

Will  you  speak  before  I  am  gone?  will  you  prove  already  too  late? 


The  spotted  hawk  swoops  by  and  accuses  me,  he  complains  of  my  gab  and  my 
loitenng. 

I  too  am  not  a  bit  tamed,  I  too  am  untranslatable, 

I  sound  my  barbaric  yawp  over  the  roofs  of  the  world. 


WALT   WHITMAN  6? 

The  last  scud  of  day  holds  back  for  me, 

It  flings  my  likeness  after  the  rest  and  true  as  any  on  the  shadow'd  wilds, 

It  coaxes  me  to  the  vapor  and  the  dusk. 

I  depart  as  air,  I  shake  my  white  locks  at  the  runaway  sun, 

I  effuse  my  flesh  in  eddies,  and  drift  it  in  lacy  jags. 

I  bequeath  myself  to  the  dirt  to  grow  from  the  grass  I  love, 
If  you  want  me  again  look  for  me  under  your  boot-soles. 

You  will  hardly  know  who  I  am  or  what  I  mean, 
But  I  shall  be  good  health  to  you  nevertheless, 
And  filter  and  fiber  your  blood. 


Failing  to  fetch  me  at  first  keep  encouraged, 
Missing  me  one  place  search  another, 
I  stop  somewhere  waiting  for  you. 


SONG    OF    THE     OPEN    ROAD 

(  Condensed) 

Afoot  and  light-hearted  I  take  to  the  open  road, 

Healthy,  free,  the  world  before  me, 

The  long  brown  path  before  me  leading  wherever  I  choose. 

Henceforth  I  ask  not  good-fortune,  I  myself  am  good-fortune, 
Henceforth  I  whimper  no  more,  postpone  no  moie,  need  nothing", 
Done  with  indoor  complaints,  libraries,  querulous  criticisms, 
Strong  and  content  I  travel  the  open  road. 

The  earth,  that  is  sufficient, 

I  do  not  want  the  constellations  any  nearer, 

I  know  they  are  very  well  where  they  are, 

I  know  they  suffice  for  those  who  belong  to  them 

(Still  here  I  carry  my  old  delicious  burden*, 

I  carry  them,  men  and  women,  I  carry  them  with  me  wherever  I  go, 

I  swear  it  is  impossible  for  me  to  get  rid  of  them, 

I  am  fiird  with  them,  and  I  will  fill  them  in  return.) 

You  road  I  enter  upon  and  look  around,  I  believe  you  are  not  all  that  is  here, 

I  believe  that  much  unseen  is  also  here. 

Here  the  profound  lesson  of  reception,  nor  preference  nor  denial, 

The  black  with  his  woolly  head,  the  felon,  the  diseased,  the  illiterate  person,  are  not 
denied; 

The  birth,  the  hasting  after  the  physician,  the  beggar's  tramp,  the  drunkard's  stag- 
ger, the  laughing  party  of  mechanics, 

The  escaped  youth,  the  rich  person's  carriage,  the  fop,  the  eloping  couple, 

The  early  market-man,  the  hearse,  the  moving  of  furniture  into  the  town,  the  return 
back  from  the  town, 


64  WALT   WHITMAN 

They  pass,  I  also  pass,  any  thing  passes,  none  can  be  interdicted, 
None  but  are  accepted,  none  but  shall  be  dear  to  me. 

You  air  that  serves  me  with  breath  to  speak' 

You  objects  that  call  from  diffusion  my  meanings  and  give  them  shape! 

You  light  that  wraps  me  and  ail  things  in  delicate  equable  showers' 

You  paths  worn  in  the  irregular  hollows  by  the  roadsides! 

I  believe  you  are  latent  with  unseen  existences,  you  are  so  dear  to  me. 

I  inhale  great  draughts  of  space, 

The  east  and  the  west  arc  mine,  and  the  north  and  the  south  are  mine. 

I  am  larger,  better  than  I  thought, 

I  did  not  know  I  held  so  much  goodness. 

All  seems  beautiful  to  me, 

I  can  repeat  ovci  to  men  and  women,  You  have  done  such  good  to  me  I  would  do 

the  same  to  you, 

I  will  recruit  for  myself  and  you  as  I  go, 
I  will  scatter  myself  among  men  and  women  as  I  go, 
I  will  toss  a  new  gladness  and  roughness  among  them, 
Whoever  denies  me  it  shall  not  trouble  me, 
Whoever  accepts  me  he  or  she  shall  be  blessed  and  shall  bless  me. 

Allons!  whoever  you  are  come  travel  with  me' 
Traveling  with  me  you  find  what  never  tires. 

The  earth  never  tires, 

The  earth  is  rude,  silent,  incomprehensible  at  first,  Nature  is  rude  and  incompre- 
hensible at  first, 

Be  not  discouraged,  keep  on,  there  are  divine  things  well  envelop'd, 
I  swear  to  you  there  arc  divine  things  more  beautiful  than  words  can  Jell. 

Allons'  we  must  not  stop  here, 

However  sweet  these  laid-up  stores,  however  convenient  this  dwelling  we  cannot 

remain  here, 
However  sheltered  this  port  and  however  calm  these  waters  we  must  not  anchor 

here, 
However  welcome  the  hospitality  that  surrounds  us  we  are  permitted  to  receive  it 

but  a  little  while. 

Allons'  the  inducements  shall  be  greater, 
We  will  sail  pathless  and  wild  seas, 

We  will  go  where  winds  blow,  waves  dash,  and  the  Yankee  clipper  speeds  by  under 
full  sail. 

Allons!  with  power,  liberty,  the  earth,  the  elements, 

Health,  defiance,  gayety,  self-esteem,  curiosity; 

Allons'  from  all  formules' 

From  your  formules,  O  bat-eyed  and  materialistic  priests. 


WALT   WHITMAN  65 

Aliens!  through  struggles  and  wars! 

The  goal  that  was  named  cannot  be  countermanded. 

Have  the  past  struggles  succeeded? 

What  has  succeeded"3  yourself ?  your  nation?  Nature? 

Now  understand  me  well — it  is  provided  in  the  essence  of  things  that  from  any 

fruition  of  success,  no  matter  what,  shall  come  forth  something  to  make  a 

greater  struggle  necessary. 

My  call  is  the  call  of  battle,  I  nourish  active  rebellion, 

He  going  with  me  must  go  well  arm'd. 

He  going  with  me  goes  often  with  spare  diet,  poverty,  angry  enemies,  desertions. 

Aliens'  the  road  is  before  us' 

It  is  safe — I  have  tried  it — my  own  feet  have  tried  it  well — be  not  dctam'd! 
Let  the  paper  remain  on  the  desk  unwritten,  and  the  book  on  the  shelf  unopen'd! 
Let  the  tools  remain  in  the  workshop'  let  the  money  remain  uncarn'd' 
Let  the  school  stand'  mind  not  the  cry  of  the  teacher' 

Let  the  preacher  preach  in  his  pulpit!  let  the  lawyer  plead  in  the  court,  and  the 
judge  expound  the  law. 

Camerado,  I  give  you  my  hand! 

I  give  you  my  love  more  precious  than  money, 

I  give  you  myself  before  preaching  or  law; 

Will  you  give  me  yourself'5  will  you  come  tiavcl  with  me? 

Shall  we  stick  by  each  other  as  long  as  we  live? 


THE     BROAD- AX 

(from  "Song  of  the  Broad-Ax") 

Weapon  shapely,  naked,  wan, 

Head  from  the  mother's  bowels  drawn, 

Wooded  flesh  and  metal  bone,  limb  only  one  and  lip  only  one, 

Gray-blue  leaf  by  red-heat  grown,  helve  produced  from  a  little  seed  sown, 

Resting  the  grass  amid  and  upon, 

To  be  lean'd  and  to  lean  on. 

ON    THE    BEACH     AT    NIGHT 

On  the  beach  at  night, 
Stands  a  child  with  her  father, 
Watching  the  east,  the  autumn  sky. 

Up  through  the  darkness, 

While  ravening  clouds,  the  burial  clouds,  in  black  masses  spreading, 

Lower  sullen  and  fast  athwart  and  down  the  sky, 

Amid  a  transparent  clear  belt  of  ether  yet  left  in  the  east, 

Ascends  large  and  calm  the  lord-star  Jupiter, 

And  nigh  at  hand,  only  a  very  little  above, 

Swim  the  delicate  sisters  the  Pleiades. 


66  WALT   WHITMAN 

From  the  beach  the  child  holding  the  hand  of  her  father, 
Those  burial  clouds  that  lower  victorious  soon  to  devour  all, 
Watching,  silently  weeps. 

Weep  not,  child, 

Weep  not,  my  darling, 

With  these  kisses  let  me  remove  your  tears, 

The  ravening  clouds  shall  not  long  be  victorious; 

They  shall  not  long  possess  the  sky,  they  devour  the  stars  only  in  apparition, 

Jupiter  shall  emerge,  be  patient,  watch  again  another  night,  the  Pleiades  shall 

emerge, 

They  are  immortal,  all  those  stars  both  silvery  and  golden  shall  shine  out  again, 
The  great  stars  and  the  little  ones  shall  shine  out  again,  they  endure, 
The  vast  immortal  suns  and  the  long-enduring  pensive  moons  shall  again  shine. 

Then  dearest  child  mournest  thou  only  for  Jupiter? 
Considerest  thou  alone  the  burial  of  the  stars? 

Something  there  is, 

(With  my  lips  soothing  thee,  adding  I  whisper, 

I  give  thce  the  first  suggestion,  the  problem  and  indirection,) 

Something  there  is  more  immortal  even  than  the  stars, 

(Many  the  burials,  many  the  days  and  nights,  passing  away,) 

Something  that  shall  endure  longer  even  than  lustrous  Jupiter, 

Longer  than  sun  or  any  revolving  satellite, 

Or  the  radiant  sisters  the  Pleiades. 


OUT  OF  THE  CRADLE  ENDLESSLY  ROCKING 

Out  of  the  cradle  endlessly  rocking, 

Out  of  the  mocking-bird's  throat,  the  musical  shuttle, 

Out  of  the  Ninth-month  midnight, 

Over  the  sterile  sands  and  the  fields  beyond  where  the  child  leaving  his  bed  wan- 

der'd  alone,  bareheaded,  barefoot, 
Down  from  the  shower'd  halo, 

Up  from  the  mystic  play  of  shadows  twining  and  twisting  as  if  they  were  alive, 
Out  from  the  patches  of  briers  and  blackberries, 
From  the  memories  of  the  bird  that  chanted  to  me, 

From  your  memories  sad  brother,  from  the  fitful  risings  and  fallings  I  heard, 
From  under  that  yellow  half-moon  late-risen  and  swollen  as  if  with  tears, 
From  those  beginning  notes  of  yearning  and  love  there  in  the  mist, 
From  the  thousand  responses  of  my  heart  never  to  cease, 
From  the  myriad  thence-arous'd  words, 
From  the  word  stronger  and  more  delicious  than  any, 
From  such  as  now  they  start  the  scene  revisiting, 
As  a  flock,  twittering,  rising,  or  overhead  passing, 
Borne  hither,  eie  all  eludes  me,  hurriedly, 
A  man,  yet  by  these  tears  a  little  boy  again, 
Throwing  myself  on  the  sand,  confronting  the  waves, 
I,  chanter  of  pains  and  joys,  umter  of  here  and  hereafter, 
Taking. all  hints  to  use  them,  but  swiftly  leaping  beyond  them, 
A  reminiscence  sing. 


WALT   WHITMAN  67 

Once  Paumanok, 

When  the  lilac-scent  was  in  the  air  and  Fifth-month  grass  was  growing, 

Up  this  seashore  in  some  briers, 

Two  fcather'd  guests  from  Alabama,  two  together, 

And  their  nest,  and  four  light-green  eggs  spotted  with  brown, 

And  every  day  the  he-bird  to  and  fro  near  at  hand, 

And  every  day  the  she-bird  crouch'd  on  her  nest,  silent,  with  bright  eyes, 

And  every  day  I,  a  curious  boy,  never  too  close,  never  disturbing  them, 

Cautiously  peering,  absorbing,  translating. 

Shine!  shinel  shine! 

Pour  down  your  watmth,  great  sun! 

While  we  bas\,  we  two  together, 

Two  together! 

Winds  blow  south,  or  winds  blow  north, 
Day  come  white,  or  night  come  blac\, 
Home,  or  uveis  and  mountains  jtom  home. 
Singing  all  time,  minding  no  time, 
While  we^two  %eep  togethet. 

Till  of  a  sudden, 

May-be  kill'd,  unknown  to  her  mate, 

One  forenoon  the  she-bird  crouch'd  not  on  the  nest, 

Nor  return'd  that  afternoon,  nor  the  next, 

Nor  ever  appear'd  again. 

And  thenceforward  all  summer  in  the  sound  of  the  sea, 

And  at  night  under  the  full  of  the  moon  in  calmer  weather, 

Over  the  hoarse  surging  of  the  sea, 

Or  flitting  from  bner  to  brier  by  day, 

I  saw,  T  heard  at  intervals  the  remaining  one,  the  he-bird, 

The  solitary  guest  from  Alabama. 

Blow!  blowl  blow! 

Blow  up  sea-winds  along  Paumanol^s  shore; 

I  wait  and  /  wait  till  you  blow  my  mate  to  me. 

Yes,  when  the  stars  glisten'd, 

All  night  long  on  the  prong  of  a  moss-scallop' d  stake, 

Down  almost  amid  the  slapping  waves, 

Sat  the  lone  singer  wonderful  causing  tears. 

He  call'd  on  his  mate, 

He  pour'd  forth  the  meanings  which  I  of  all  men  know. 

Yes  my  brother  I  know, 

The  rest  might  not,  but  I  have  treasured  every  note, 

For  more  than  once  dimly  down  to  the  beach  gliding, 

Silent,  avoiding  the  moonbeams,  blending  myself  with  the  shadows, 

Recalling  now  the  obscure  shapes,  the  echoes,  the  sounds  and  sights  after  their  sorts, 


68  WALT   WHITMAN 

The  white  arms  out  in  the  breakers  tirelessly  tossing, 
I,  with  bare  tcet,  a  child,  the  wind  wafting  my  hair, 
Listened  long  and  long. 

Listen'd  to  keep,  to  sing,  now  translating  the  notes, 
Following  you  my  brother. 

Soothe^  soothe?  soothe? 

Close  on  its  wave  soothes  the  wave  behind, 

And  again  anotho  behind  embracing  and  lapping,  evety  one  close, 

But  my  love  soothes  not  me,  not  me. 

Low  hangs  the  moon,  it  rose  late, 

It  is  lagging  —  O  /  thinly  it  is  heavy  with  love,  with  love. 

O  madly  the  sea  pushes  upon  the  land, 
With  love,  with  love. 

O  night*  do  I  not  see  my  love  fluttering  out  among  the  bt  eaters? 
What  is  that  little  blac^  thing  I  see  thete  in  the  white? 

Loud?  loudl  loud? 

Loud  I  call  to  you,  my  love! 

High  and  cleat  I  shoot  my  voice  over  the  waves, 

Sutely  you  must  fyww  who  is  heie,  is  hete, 

You  must  kjiow  who  I  am,  my  love. 

Low-hanging  moonl 

What  is  that  dtts^y  spot  in  you)  blown  yellow? 

O  it  is  the  shape,  the  shape  of  my  matel 

O  moon  do  not  fcep  het  pom  me  any  longer. 


land!  Q 
Whi(heve)  way  I  tuin,  O  I  thinly  you  could  give  me  my  mate  bac\  again  if  you 

only  would, 
For  I  am  almost  suie  I  see  her  dimly  whichever  way  I 


O  tiding  stats! 

Pet  haps  the  one  I  want  so  much  ivill  use,  will  use  with  some  of  you. 

O  thioatl  O  tiembling  thtoatl 

Sound  clearer  through  the  atmosphetel 

Pietce  the  woods,  the  earth, 

Somcwhete  listening  to  catch  you  must  be  the  one  I  want. 

Sha1(c  out  catoW 

Sohtaty  hete,  the  night's  caiols! 

Cawls  of  lonesome  lovcl  death's  carols! 

Carols  undei  that  lagging,  yellow,  waning  moon! 

O  undet  that  moon  where  she  dtoops  almost  down  into  the  sea! 

O  reckless  despaning  caiols. 


WALT   WHITMAN  69 

But  soft!  sin\  low! 

Soft,  let  me  just  mutmur, 

And  do  you  wait  a  moment  you  husty-nois'd  sea, 

For  somewhere  I  believe  I  heatd  my  mate  responding  to  me, 

So  jamt,  I  must  be  still,  be  still  to  listen, 

But  not  altogether  still,  for  then  she  might  not  come  immediately  to  me. 

Hither  my  lovel 

Here  I  ami  hetel 

With  this  imt-sustain' d  note  I  announce  myself  to  you, 

This  gentle  call  is  jot  you  my  love,  for  you. 

Do  not  be  decoy  d  elsewhere, 

That  is  the  whistle  of  the  wind,  it  is  not  my  voice, 

That  is  the  fluttenng,  the  ftutteting  of  the  spiay, 

Those  ate  the  shadows  of  leaves. 

O  datfyessl  O  in  vam^ 

O  I  am  vety  sicl^  and  sottowjul. 

0  blown  halo  in  the  s1{y  near  the  moon,  drooping  upon  the  seal 

O  troubled  reflection  in  the  seal 

O  thtoat*  O  thtobbing  heattf 

And  I  singing  uselessly,  uselessly  all  the  night. 

O  past!  O  happy  life!  O  songs  of  joy! 
In  the  an ,  in  the  woods,  ovet  fields, 
Lovedl  loved)  loved^  lovcd^  lovedt 
But  my  mate  no  mote,  no  mote  with  me! 
We  two  togethet  no  mote. 

The  ana  sinking, 

All  else  continuing,  the  stars  shining, 

The  winds  blowing,  the  notes  ot  the  bird  continuous  echoing, 

With  angry  moans  the  fierce  old  mother  incessantly  moaning, 

On  the  sands  of  Paumanok's  shore  gray  and  rustling, 

The  yellow  half-moon  enlarged,  sagging  down,  drooping,  the  lace  of  the  sea  almost 

touching, 

The  boy  ecstatic,  with  his  bare  feet  the  waves,  with  his  hair  the  atmosphere  dallying, 
The  love  in  the  heart  long  pent,  now  loose,  now  at  last  tumultuously  bursting, 
The  ana's  meaning,  the  ears,  the  soul,  swiftly  depositing, 
The  strange  tears  down  the  cheeks  coursing, 
The  colloquy  triere^hcjrio,  each  uttering, 
•The  undertone,  the  savage  old  mother  incessantly  crying, 
To  the  boy's  soul's  questions  sullenly  timing,  some  drown'd  secret  hissing, 
To  the  outsettmg  bard. 

•P 
Dernon  or  bird'  (said  the  boy's  soul,) 

Is  it  indeed  toward  your  mate  you  sing^  or  is  it  really  to  me? 

For  I,  that  was  a  child,  my  tongue's  use  sleeping,  now  I  have  heard  you, 


70  WALT   WHITMAN 

Now  in  a  moment  I  know  what  I  am  for,  I  awake, 

And  already  a  thousand  singers,  a  thousand  songs,  clearer,  louder  and  more  sorrow- 
ful than  yours, 
A  thousand  warbling  echoes  have  started  to  life  within  me,  never  to  die. 

O  you  singer  solitary,  singing  by  yourself,  projecting  me, 

O  solitary  me  listening,  never  more  shall  I  cease  perpetuating  you, 

Never  more  shall  I  escape,  never  more  the  reverberations, 

Never  more  the  cries  of  unsatisfied  love  be  absent  from  me, 

Never  again  leave  me  to  be  the  peaceful  child  I  was  before  what  there  in  the  night, 

By  the  sea  under  the  yellow  and  sagging  moon, 

The  messenger  there  arous'd,  the  fire,  the  sweet  hell  within, 

The  unknown  want,  the  destiny  of  me. 

O  give  me  the  clue'  (it  lurks  in  the  night  here  somewhere,) 
O  if  I  am  to  have  so  much,  let  me  have  more! 

A  word  then,  (for  I  will  conquer  it,) 

The  word  final,  superior  to  all, 

Subtle,  sent  up — what  is  it? — I  listen; 

Are  you  whispering  it,  and  have  been  all  the  time,  you  sea-waves? 

Is  that  it  from  your  liquid  rims  and  wet  sands ? 

Whereto  answering,  the  sea, 

Delaying  not,  hurrying  not, 

Whisper'd  me  through  the  night,  and  very  plainly  before  daybreak, 

Lisp'd  to  me  the  low  and  delicious  word  death, 

And  again  death,  death,  death,  death, 

Hissing  melodious,  neither  like  the  bird  nor  like  my  arous'd  child's  heart, 

But  edging  near  as  privately  for  me  rustling  at  my  feet, 

Creeping  thence  steadily  up  to  my  ears  and  laving  me  softly  all  over, 

Death,  death,  death,  death,  death. 

Which  I  do  not  forget, 

But  fuse  the  song  of  my  dusky  demon  and  brother, 

That  he  sang  to  me  in  the  moonlight  on  Paumonok's  gray  beach, 

With  the  thousand  responsive  songs  at  random, 

My  own  songs  awaked  from  that  hour, 

And  with  them  the  key,  the  word  up  from  the  waves, 

The  word  of  the  sweetest  song  and  all  songs, 

That  strong  and  delicious  word  which,  creeping  to  my  feet, 

(Or  like  some  old  crone  rocking  the  cradle,  swathed  in  sweet  garments,  bending 

aside,)  -    ' 

The  sea  whisper 'd  me. 


FACING    WEST    FROM    CALIFORNIA'S    SHORES 

Facing  west  from  California's  shores, 
Inquiring,  tireless,  seeking  what  is  yet  unfound, 

I,  a  child,  very  old,  over  waves,  towards  the  house  of  maternity,  the  land  of  migra- 
tions, look  atar, 


WALT   WHITMAN 

Look  off  the  shores  of  my  Western  sea,  the  circle  almost  circled; 
For  starting  westward  from  Hindustan,  from  the  vales  of  Kashmere, 
From  Asia,  from  the  north,  from  the  God,  the  sage,  and  the  hero, 
From  the  south,  from  the  flowery  peninsulas  and  the  spice  islands, 
Long  having  wander'd  since,  round  the  earth  having  wandcrM, 
Now  I  face  home  again,  very  pleas'd  and  joyous, 
(But  where  is  what  I  started  for  so  long  ago? 
And  why  is  it  yet  unfound?) 

WHEN     LILACS    LAST    IN    THE    DO  OR  YARD    BLOOM1 


When  lilacs  last  in  the  dooryard  bloom'd, 

And  the  great  star  early  droop'd  in  the  western  sky  in  the  night, 

I  mourn'd,  and  yet  shall  mourn  with  ever-returning  spring. 

Ever-returning  spring,  trinity  sure  to  me  you  bring, 
Lilac  blooming  perennial  and  drooping  star  in  the  west, 
And  thought  of  him  I  love. 

2 

O  powerful  western  fallen  star! 
O  shades  ol  night — O  moody,  tearful  night' 
O  great  star  disappeared — O  the  black  murk  that  hides  the  star! 
O  cruel  hands  that  hold  me  powerless — ()  helpless  soul  ot  me' 
O  harsh  surrounding  cloud  that  will  not  free  my  soul. 

3 

In  the  dooryard  fronting  an  old  farm-house  near  the  whitewashed  palings, 
Stands  the  lilac-bush  tall-growing  with  heart-shaped  leaves  of  rich  green, 
With  many  a  pointed  blossom  rising  delicate,  with  the  perfume  strong  I  love, 
With  every  leat  a  miracle — and  from  this  bush  in  the  dooryard, 
With  dchcate-color'd  blossoms  and  heart-shaped  leaves  of  rich  green, 
A  sprig  with  its  flower  I  break. 

4 

In  the  swamp  in  secluded  recesses, 
A  shy  and  hidden  bird  is  warbling  a  song. 

Solitary  the  thrush, 

The  hermit  withdrawn  to  himself,  avoiding  the  settlements, 

Sings  by  himself  a  song. 

Song  of  the  bleeding  throat, 

Death's  outlet  song  of  life,  (for  well  dear  brother  I  know, 

If  thou  wast  not  granted  to  sing  thou  would'st  surely  die.) 

5 

Over  the  breast  of  the  spring,  the  land,  amid  cities, 

Amid  lanes  and  through  old  woods,  where  lately  the  violets  peep'd  from  the  ground, 
spotting  the  gray  debris, 

1  This,  one  of  the  noblest  elegies  in  the  language,  and  the  rhymed  stanzas  that  follow  on  the 
same  theme,  are  part  of  a  group  which  Whitman  entitled  "Memories  of  President  Lincoln.*' 


72  WALT   WHITMAN 

Amid  the  grass  in  the  fields  each  side  of  the  lanes,  passing  the  endless  grass, 
Passing  the  yellow-spear 'd  wheat,  every  grain  from  its  shroud  in  the  dark-brown 

fields  uprisen, 

Passing  the  apple-tree  blows  of  white  and  pink  in  the  orchards, 
Carrying  a  corpse  to  where  it  shall  rest  in  the  grave, 
Night  and  day  journeys  a  coffin. 

6 

Coffin  that  passes  through  lanes  and  streets, 

Through  day  and  night  with  the  great  cloud  darkening  the  land, 

With  the  pomp  of  the  mloop'd  flags  with  the  cities  draped  in  black, 

With  the  show  of  the  States  themselves  as  of  crape-veil'd  women  standing, 

With  processions  long  and  winding  and  the  flambeaus  of  the  night, 

With  the  countless  torches  lit,  with  the  silent  sea  of  faces  and  the  unbared  heads, 

With  the  waiting  depot,  the  arriving  coffin,  and  the  somber  faces, 

With  dirges  through  the  night,  with  the  thousand  voices  rising  strong  and  solemn, 

With  all  the  mournful  voices  of  the  dirges  pour'd  around  the  coffin, 

The  dim-lit  churches  and  the  shuddering  organs — where  amid  these  you  journey, 

With  the  tolling  tolling  bells'  perpetual  clang, 

Here,  coffin  that  slowly  passes, 

I  give  you  my  sprig  of  lilac. 

7 
(Nor  for  you,  for  one  alone, 

Blossoms  and  branches  green  to  coffins  all  I  bring, 

For  fresh  as  the  morning,  thus  would  I  chant  a  song  for  you  O  sane  and  sacred 
death. 

All  over  bouquets  of  roses, 

()  death,  I  cover  you  over  with  roses  and  early  lilies, 

But  mostly  and  now  the  lilac  that  blooms  the  first, 

Copious  I  break,  I  break  the  sprigs  from  the  bushes, 

With  loaded  arms  I  come,  pouring  for  you, 

For  you  and  the  coffins  all  of  you  O  death.) 

8 

O  western  orb  sailing  the  heaven, 

Now  I  know  what  you  must  have  meant  as  a  month  since  I  walk'd, 
As  I  walk'd  in  silence  the  transparent  shadowy  night, 
As  I  saw  you  had  something  to  tell  as  you  bent  to  me  night  after  night, 
As  you  droop'd  from  the  sky  low  down  as  if  to  my  side,  (while  the  other  stars  all 

lookVl  on,) 
As  we  wander'd  together  the  solemn  night,  (for  something  I  know  not  what  kept 

me  fiom  sleep,) 

As  the  night  advanced,  and  I  saw  on  the  rim  of  the  west  how  full  you  were  of  woe, 
As  I  stood  on  the  rising  ground  in  the  breeze  in  the  cool  transparent  night, 
As  I  watch 'd  where  you  pass'd  and  was  lost  in  the  netherward  black  of  the  night, 
As  my  soul  in  its  trouble  dissatisfied  sank,  as  where  you  sad  orb, 
Concluded,  dropt  in  the  night,  and  was  gone. 

9 

Sing  on  there  in  the  swamp, 

0  singer  bashful  and  tender,  I  hear  your  notes,  I  hear  your  call, 

1  hear,  I  come  presently,  I  understand  you, 


WALT   WHITMAN  73 

But  a  moment  I  linger,  for  the  lustrous  star  has  detained  me, 
The  star  my  departing  comrade  holds  and  detains  me. 

10 

O  how  shall  I  warbje  myself  for  the  dead  one  there  I  loved? 

And  how  shall  I  deck  my  song  for  the  large  sweet  soul  that  has  gone? 

And  what  shall  my  perfume  be  for  the  grave  of  him  I  love? 

Sea-winds  blown  from  east  and  west, 

Blown  from  the  Eastern  sea  and  blown  from  the  Western  sea,  till  there  on  the 

prairies  meeting, 

These  and  with  these  and  the  breath  of  my  chant, 
I'll  perfume  the  grave  of  him  I  love. 

ii 

O  what  shall  I  hang  on  the  chamber  walls? 

And  what  shall  the  pictures  be  that  I  hang  on  the  walls, 

To  adorn  the  burial-house  of  him  I  love? 

Pictures  of  growing  spring  and  farms  and  homes, 

With  the  Fourth-month  eve  at  sundown,  and  the  giay  smoke  lucid  and  bright, 

With  floods  of  the  yellow  gold  of  the  gorgeous,  indolent,  sinking  sun,  burning,  ex- 
panding the  air, 

With  the  fresh  sweet  herbage  under  foot,  and  the  pale  green  leaves  ol  the  trees 
prolific, 

In  the  distance  the  flowing  glaze,  the  breast  of  the  river,  with  a  wind-dapple  here 
and  there, 

With  ranging  hills  on  the  banks,  with  many  a  line  against  the  sky,  and  shadows, 

And  the  city  at  hand,  with  dwellings  so  dense,  and  stacks  of  chimneys, 

And  all  the  scenes  of  lite  and  the  workshops,  and  the  workmen  homeward  returning. 

12 

Lo,  body  and  soul — this  land, 

My  own  Manhattan  with  spires,  and  the  spackhng  and  hurrying  tides,  and  the  ships, 
The  varied  and  ample  land,  the  South  and  the  North  in  the  light,  Ohio's  shores 

and  flashing  Missouri, 
And  ever  the  far-spreading  prairies  covered  with  grass  and  corn. 

Lo,  the  most  excellent  sun  so  calm  and  haughty, 

The  violet  and  purple  morn  with  just-felt  breezes, 

The  gentle  soit-born  measureless  light, 

The  miracle  spreading  bathing  all,  the  fulfilPd  noon, 

The  coming  eve  delicious,  the  welcome  night  and  the  stars, 

Over  njy  cities  shining  all,  enveloping  man  and  land. 

13 

Sing  on,  sing  on  you  gray-brown  bird, 

Sing  from  the  swamps,  the  recesses,  pour  your  chant  from  the  bushes, 
Limitless  out  of  the  dusk,  out  of  the  cedars  and  pines. 
Sing  on  dearest  brother,  warble  your  reedy  song, 
Loud  human  song,  with  voice  of  uttermost  woe. 


74 


WALT   WHITMAN 


O  liquid  and  free  and  tender! 

O  wild  and  loose  to  my  soul  —  O  wondrous  singer! 

You  only  I  hear  —  yet  the  star  holds  me,  (but  will  soon  depart,) 

Yet  the  lilac  with  mastering  odor  holds  me. 


Now  while  I  sat  in  the  day  and  look'd  forth, 

In  the  close  of  the  day  with  its  light  and  the  fields  of  spring,  and  the  farmers  pre- 

paring their  crops,  ^ 

In  the  large  unconscious  scenery  of  my  land  with  its  lakes  and  forests, 
In  the  heavenly  aerial  beauty,  (after  the  perturb'd  winds  and  the  storms,) 
Under  the  arching  heavens  of  the  afternoon  swift  passing,  and  the  voices  of  chil- 

dren and  women, 

The  many-moving  sea-tides,  and  I  saw  the  ships  how  they  sa*il'd, 
And  the  summer  approaching  with  richness,  and  the  fields  all  busy  with  labor, 
And  the  infinite  separate  houses,  how  they  all  went  on,  each  with  its  meals  and 

minutia  of  daily  usages, 
And  the  streets  how  their  throbbings  throbb'd,  and  the  cities  pent  —  lo,  then  and 

there, 

Falling  upon  them  all  and  among  them  all,  enveloping  me  with  the  rest, 
Appeared  the  cloud,  appeared  the  long  black  trail, 
And  I  knew  death,  its  thought,  and  the  sacred  knowledge  of  death. 

Then  with  the  knowledge  of  death  as  walking  one  side  of  me, 

And  the  thought  of  death  close-walking  the  other  side  of  me, 

And  I  in  the  middle  as  with  companions,  and  as  holding  the  hands  of  companions, 

I  fled  forth  to  the  hiding  receiving  night  that  talks  not, 

Down  to  the  shores  of  the  water,  the  path  by  the  swamp  in  the  dimness, 

To  the  solemn  shadowy  cedars  and  ghostly  pmcs  so  still. 

And  the  singer  so  shy  to  the  rest  rcceiv'd  me, 

The  gray-brown  bird  I  know  recciv'd  us  comrades  three, 

And  he  sang  the  carol  of  death,  and  a  verse  for  him  I  love. 

From  deep  secluded  recesses, 

From  the  fragrant  cedars  and  the  ghostly  pines  so  still, 

Came  the  carol  of  the  bird. 

And  the  charm  of  the  carol  rapt  me 

As  I  held  as  if  by  their  hands  my  comrades  in  the  night, 

And  the  voice  of  my  spirit  tallied  the  song  of  the  bird. 

Come  lovely  and  soothing  death, 

Undulate  wund  the  wot  Id,  sctenely  at  living,  arriving, 

In  the  day,  in  the  night,  to  all,  to  each, 

Sooner  or  latct  delicate  death. 

Piais'd  be  the  fathomless  universe, 
For  life  and  joy,  and  fur  objects  and  \nowledge  curious, 
And  jot  love,  sweet  love  —  but  ptaisel  praise^  piaisel 
For  the  surc-enwinding  atms  of  cool-enfolding  death. 


WALT   WHITMAN 

Dar\  mother  always  gliding  neat  with  soft  feet, 

Have  none  chanted  for  thee  a  chant  of  fullest  welcome? 

Then  I  chant  it  for  theet  I  glonfy  thee  above  all, 

I  bring  thee  a  song  that  when  thou  must  indeed  come,  come  unfalteringly. 

Approach  strong  deliver  ess, 

When  it  is  so,  when  thou  hast  ta\en  them  I  joyously  sing  the  dead, 

Lost  in  the  loving  floating  ocean  of  thee, 

Laved  in  the  flood  of  thy  bliss  O  death. 

From  me  to  thee  glad  serenades, 

Dances  for  thee  I  propose  saluting  thee,  adornments  and  feasting*  for  t/ieef 
And  the  sights  of  the  open  landscape  and  the  high-spread  »^y  we  fitting, 
And  life  and  the  fields,  and  the  huge  and  thoughtful  night. 

The  night  in  silence  under  many  a  star, 

The  ocean  shote  and  the  hus\y  whispering  wave  whose  voice  I  bjnow, 

And  the  soul  turning  to  thee  O  vast  and  well-veil d  death, 

And  the  body  g>  ate fully  nestling  close  to  thee. 

Over  the  tree-tops  1  float  thee  a  song, 

Over  the  using  and  sinking  waves,  over  the  myriad  fields  and  the  prames  wide 

Over  the  dense-pact^  d  cities  all  and  the  teeming  wharves  and  ways, 

I  float  this  carol  with  joy,  with  joy  to  thee  O  death. 

15 

To  the  tally  of  my  soul, 

Loud  and  strong  kept  up  the  gray-brown  bird, 
With  pure  deliberate  notes  spicading  filling  the  night. 

Loud  in  the  pines  and  cedars  dim, 

Clear  in  the  freshness  moist  and  the  swamp-perfume, 

And  I  with  my  comrades  there  in  the  night 

While  my  sight  that  was  bound  m  my  eyes  unclosed, 
As  to  long  panoramas  of  visions. 

And  I  saw  askant  the  armies, 

I  saw  as  in  noiseless  dreams  hundreds  of  battle-Hags, 

Borne  through  the  smoke  of  the  battles  and  pierc'd  with  missiles  I  saw  them, 

And  carried  hither  and  yon  through  the  smoke,  and  torn  and  bloody, 

And  at  last  but  a  few  shreds  left  on  the  staffs,  (and  all  in  silence,) 

And  the  stalls  all  splmter'd  and  broken. 

I  saw  battle-corpses,  myriads  of  them, 

And  the  white  skeletons  of  young  men,  I  saw  them, 

I  saw  the  debris  and  debris  of  all  the  slain  soldiers  of  the  war, 

But  I  saw  they  were  not  as  was  thought, 

They  themselves  were  fully  at  rest,  they  sufTer'd  not, 

The  living  remained  and  sufTer'd,  the  mother  sufTer'd, 

And  the  wife  and  the  child  and  the  musing  comrade  sufTer'd, 

And  the  armies  that  remam'd  sufTer'd. 

16 

Passing  the  visions,  passing  the  night, 
Passing,  unloosing  the  hold  of  my  comrades'  hands, 


76  WALT   WHITMAN 

Passing  the  song  of  the  hermit  bird  and  the  tallying  song  of  my  soul, 
Victorious  song,  death's  outlet  song,  yet  varying  ever-altering  song, 
As  low  and  wailing,  yet  clear  the  notes,  rising  and  falling,  flooding  the  night, 
Sadly  sinking  and  fainting,  as  warning  and  warning,  and  yet  again  bursting  with 

joy> 

Covering  the  earth  and  filling  the  spread  of  the  heaven, 

As  that  powerful  psalm  in  the  night  I  heard  from  recesses, 

Passing,  I  leave  thce  lilac  with  heart-shaped  leaves, 

I  leave  thee  there  in  the  dooryard,  blooming,  returning  with  spring. 

I  cease  from  my  song  for  thee, 

From  my  gaze  on  thee  in  the  west,  fronting  the  west,  communing  with  thee, 

O  comrade  lustrous  with  silver  face  in  the  night. 

Yet  each  to  keep  and  all,  retnevements  out  of  the  night, 

The  song,  the  wondrous  chant  of  the  gray-brown  bird, 

And  the  tallying  chant,  the  echo  arous'd  in  my  soul, 

With  the  lustrous  and  drooping  star  with  the  countenance  full  of  woe, 

With  the  holders  holding  my  hand  nearmg  the  call  of  the  bird, 

Comrades  mine  and  I  in  the  midst,  and  their  memory  ever  to  keep,  for  the  dead  I 

loved  so  well, 

For  the  sweetest,  wisest  soul  of  all  my  days  and  lands — and  this  for  his  dear  sake, 
Lilac  and  star  and  bird  twined  with  the  chant  of  my  soul, 
There  in  the  fragrant  pines  and  the  cedars  dusk  and  dim. 

o  CAPTAIN!   MY  CAPTAIN! 

O  Captain'  my  Captain'  our  fearful  trip  is  done, 
The  ship  has  wcather'd  every  rack,  the  prize  we  sought  is  won, 
The  port  is  near,  the  bells  I  hear,  the  people  all  exulting, 
While  follow  eyes  the  steady  keel,  the  vessel  grim  and  daring; 
But  O  heart'  heart'  heart' 
O  the  bleeding  diops  of  red, 
Where  on  the  deck  my  Captain  lies, 
Fallen  cold  and  dead. 

O  Captain'  my  Captain'  rise  up  and  hear  the  bells; 
Rise  up — for  you  the  flag  is  flung — for  you  the  bugle  trills, 
For  you  bouquets  and  nbbon'd  wreaths — for  you  the  shores  a-crowdmg, 
For  you  they  call,  the  swaying  mass,  their  eager  faces  turning; 
Here  Captain'  dear  father' 
The  arm  beneath  your  head' 

It  is  some  dream  that  on  the  deck, 
You've  fallen  cold  and  dead. 

My  Captain  does  not  answer,  his  lips  are  pale  and  still, 
My  father  does  not  feel  my  arm,  he  has  no  pulse  nor  will, 
The  ship  is  anchor'd  safe  and  sound,  its  voyage  closed  and  done, 
From  fearful  trip  the  victor  ship  comes  in  with  object  won; 
Exult  O  shores,  and  ring  O  bells' 
But  I  with  mournful  tread, 
Walk  the  deck  my  Captain  lies, 
Fallen  cold  and  dead. 


WALT   WHITMAN  77 

AFTER    THE    SUPPER    AND    TALK 

After  the  supper  and  talk — after  the  day  is  done, 

As  a  friend  from  friends  his  final  withdrawal  prolonging, 

Good-by  and  Good-by  with  emotional  lips  repeating, 

(So  hard  for  his  hand  to  release  those  hands — no  more  will  they  meet, 

No  more  for  communion  of  sorrow  and  joy,  of  old  and  young, 

A  far-stretching  journey  awaits  him,  to  return  no  more,) 

Shunning,  postponing  severance — seeking  to  ward  oft  the  last  word  ever  so  little, 

E'en  at  the  exit-door  turning — charges  superfluous  calling  back — e'en  as  he  descends 

the  steps, 

Something  to  eke  out  a  minute  additional — shadows  of  nightfall  deepening, 
Farewells,  messages  lessening — dimmer  the  forthgoer's  visage  and  form, 
Soon  to  be  lost  for  aye  in  the  darkness — loth,  O  so  loth  to  depart! 
Garrulous  to  the  very  last. 


THE     LAST    INVOCATION 

At  the  last,  tenderly, 

From  the  walls  of  the  powerful  fortrcss'd  house, 

From  the  clasp  of  the  knitted  locks,  from  the  keep  of  the  well-closed  doors, 

Let  me  be  wafted. 

Let  me  glide  noiselessly  forth; 

With  the  key  of  softness  unlock  the  locks — with  a  whisper, 

Set  ope  the  doors  O  soul. 

Tenderly — be  not  impatient, 
(Strong  is  your  hold  O  mortal  flesh. 
Strong  is  your  hold  O  love.) 


Emily  Dickinson 

EMILY  (ELIZABETH  1)  DICKINSON  was  born  in  Amherst,  Massachusetts,  December  10, 
1830.  Her  life  was,  except  for  a  circumstance  which  has  caused  much  specula- 
tion and  a  controversy  among  her  biographers,  bare  of  outward  event.  She  died  in 
the  house  in  which  she  was  born;  after  she  was  twenty-six  she  rarely  left  it.  Her 
childhood  had  the  ordinary  uneventful  events  common  to  other  children  in  Amherst 
which  at  that  time  was  so  remote  that,  only  a  few  years  before,  her  mother's  dower 
had  been  brought  to  the  town  by  a  team  of  oxen.  Her  family  was  not  quite  like 
other  families;  it  was  a  distillation  of  all  that  was  New  England,  a  synthesis  and 
refinement  of  its  reticence  and  high  thinking.  A  contemporary,  Samuel  G.  Ward, 
commented  shrewdly,  "We  came  to  this  country  to  think  our  own  thoughts  with 
nobody  to  hinder.  We  conversed  with  our  own  souls  till  we  lost  the  art  of  communi- 
cating with  other  people.  ...  It  was  awfully  high  but  awfully  lonesome.  ...  If 

1  Often  given  as  "Norcross,"  which  was  not  her  middle  name,  but  her  sister  Lavima's. 


j8  EMILY  DICKINSON 

the  gift  of  articulateness  was  not  denied,  you  had  Channing,  Emerson,  Hawthorne, 
a  stupendous  example,  and  many  others.  Mostly,  it  was  denied,  and  became  a  family 
fate.  This  is  where  Emily  Dickinson  comes  in.  She  was  the  articulate  inarticulate." 

Emily  Dickinson's  father,  Edward  Dickinson,  was  a  lawyer  who  was  nominated 
for  the  office  of  Lieutenant  Governor  (which  he  declined)  and  one  of  the  town's 
most  influential  men.  Emily  adored  him.  In  the  Life  and  Letters  of  Emily  Dickinson 
Martha  Dickinson  Bianchi,  Emily's  niece,  quotes  her  as  saying,  "If  father  is  asleep 
on  the  sofa  the  house  is  full."  At  sixteen  she  formed  a  close  friendship  with  a  girl 
who  visited  Amhcrst  and  later  married  her  brother  Austin  (the  "sister  Sue"  of  The 
Single  Hound)  and  who  disputed  with  Lavima  the  belated  honor  of  being  Emily's 
confidante.  At  seventeen  Emily  entered  South  Hadley  Female  Seminary,  disliked  it 
intensely,  grew  homesick,  rebelled  at  the  extremities  of  its  Puritanism  and,  on  one 
occasion,  packed  her  bags  and  took  the  stage  home.  From  eighteen  to  twenty-three 
she  was,  according  to  her  first  biographer,  "a  social  creature  in  the  highest  sense." 

When  she  was  twenty-three  she  spent  some  weeks  in  Washington  with  her  father 
who  was  in  Congress  for  two  terms.  On  the  return  to  Arnherst  Emily  visited  in 
Philadelphia  and  met  the  Reverend  Charles  Wadsworth — a  meeting  which,  accord- 
ing to  one  of  her  biographers,  determined  not  only  the  course  of  her  life  but  the 
character  of  her  poetry.  As  late  as  1929  Mme.  Bianchi  (Sue's  daughter)  wrote, 
"Even  now,  after  the  many  slow  years  she  has  been  removed  from  us  in  the  body, 
her  spirit  hinders  the  baring  of  that  chapter  which  has  been  so  universally  misunder- 
stood." Nothing  could  have  done  more  to  further  the  misunderstanding;  it  provoked 
speculation,  inspired  the  very  gossip  it  purported  to  evade,  and  placed  the  emphasis 
on  a  puzzle  rather  than  on  the  poetry. 

But  this  was  part  of  a  posthumous  wrangle  from  which  Emily  Dickinson  was 
mercifully  spared.  The  known  facts  arc  these:  After  1856  she  immured  herself  in 
the  family  mansion.  She  was  rarely  seen  even  in  the  house  except  as  a  figure  van- 
ishing ghostily  down  a  corridor;  she  loved  music,  but  refused  to  come  in  the  parlor 
where  it  was  played,  and  remained  seated,  out  of  view,  in  the  hall.  She  developed 
certain  idiosyncrasies:  was  an  indefatigable  letter-writer  but  had  a  congenital  preju- 
dice against  addressing  her  notes  and  got  others  to  do  this  for  her;  invariably  dressed 
in  white,  but  refused  to  be  "fitted,"  her  sister  performing  this  task  for  her;  sent 
perennial  roots  and  cookies  with  cryptic  lines  to  neighbors  and  even  to  children, 
and  became,  in  short,  the  village  oddity.  She  died  of  Bnght's  disease,  May  15,  1886, 
in  her  fifty-sixth  year. 

Thus  the  flat  physical  data  of  the  woman.  The  poet  made  her  appearance  only 
after  her  death.  During  her  lifetime  four  of  her  poems  had  been  published — 
through  no  desire  of  her  own.  She  never  cared  to  see  her  emotions  in  print;  "she 
habitually  concealed  her  mind,  like  her  person,  from  all  but  a  very  few  friends," 
wrote  Higgmson.  Even  more  deeply  than  Heine  she  might  have  cried,  "Aus  meincn 
grossen  Schmerzen  mach  ich  die  \leinen  Lieder" — and  these  brief,  almost  tele- 
graphic revelations  tucked  away  in  boxes  and  hidden  in  bureau  drawers  have  out- 
lasted the  more  pretentious  writing  of  a  century.  After  Emily's  death  her  executors 
were  amazed  at  the  amount  of  material  which  she  had  left.  More  than  twelve  hun- 
dred poems  were  unearthed,  of  which  many  are  still  unpublished.  "Sister  Sue"  had 
written  a  tribute  to  Emily  in  the  town  paper,  but  it  was  upon  Lavinia  that  the 
burden  fell.  Lavinia  assumed  it.  She  knew  her  limitations,  but  she  knew,  or  at 


EMILY  DICKINSON  79 

least  surmised,  the  greatness  of  which  she  was  guardian.  She  called  upon  her  friends 
Mabel  Loomis  Todd  and  Thomas  Wcntworth  Higginson.  Mrs.  Todd  began  to  copy 
the  poems,  and  not  only  to  copy  but  to  edit  them,  for  Emily  usually  appended  a 
list  of  alternative  words  and  it  was  Mrs.  Todd  who  had  to  decide  which  word 
should  appear  as  Emily's  choice.  In  November,  1890,  the  first  volume  of  the  Poems 
of  Emily  Dickinson  appeared  with  an  introduction  by  Thomas  Went  worth  Higgin- 
son. It  has  been  supposed  that  these  spontaneous  illuminations,  so  different  from  the 
politely  prepared  verse  of  the  day,  fell  on  barren  ground.  The  opposite  is  true. 
Though  there  were  many  scoffers  and  parodists,  critics  were  not  slow  to  see  the 
essential  quality — a  Blake-like  purity  combined  with  a  most  un-Puritan  pertness — 
readers  responded,  and  six  editions  were  printed  in  as  many  weeks.  A  year  later 
Poems  of  Emily  Dickinson — Second  Series  (1891)  appeared,  again  edited  by  Mabel 
Loomis  Todd  and  Thomas  Went  worth  Higginson.  In  189}  the  first  I^cttcts  of  Emily 
Dickinson  was  edited  by  Mrs.  Todd,  incorporated  by  Mmc.  Bianchi  in  her  later 
volume,  and  revised  and  enlarged  in  1931,  the  original  two  volumes  being  an  in- 
valuable mine  of  source  material.  In  1896  Mrs.  Todd  alone  was  responsible  for 
Poems — Third  Series. 

The  public  taste  changed;  for  thirty  years  little  was  heard  of  Emily  Dickinson; 
her  Letters  went  out  of  print,  the  publishers  thought  so  little  of  them  that  they  did 
not  even  renew  the  copyright.  The  "authorities"  contained  only  slighting  rclerenccs 
to  her  or  none  at  all.  One  of  the  encyclopedias  (The  New  International)  decided 
that  her  lyrics  were  "striking,  but  deficient  in  form";  the  Biitanmca,  as  late  as  1926, 
failed  to  mention  her  name  except  as  a  cross-reference,  omitting  her  entirely  in  the 
Index. 

In  1914  Mme.  Bianchi  prepared  a  further  volume,  The  Single  Hound,  but,  though 
the  reception  was  cordial,  it  was  by  no  means  overwhelming.  An  occasional  article 
appeared,  showing  the  poet's  "lack  of  control"  or,  beneath  a  cover  of  condescension, 
ridiculing  her  "hit-or-miss  grammar,  sterile  rhythms,  and  appalling  rhymes."  A 
devotee  here  and  there  defended  the  quaint  charm  of  her  use  of  assonance  and  half- 
rhyming  vowels.  Her  audience  grew,  but  gradually.  Suddenly,  in  1924,  Emily  Dick- 
inson became  a  figure  of  international  importance.  Almost  forty  years  alter  her  death 
her  name  became  a  poetic  shibboleth  when  in  one  year  there  were  published 
Martha  Dickinson  Bianchi's  The  Life  and  Letters  of  Emily  Dickinson,  the  first  col- 
lected Complete  Poems  (a  misnomer  as  it  turned  out  to  be),  and  the  first  English 
compilation,  Selected  Poems  of  Emily  Dickinson,  edited  with  a  penetrating  preface 
by  Conrad  Aiken. 

The  enthusiasm  attending  the  triple  appearance  was  unprecedented.  Martin  Arm- 
strong, the  English  poet,  said,  "Mr.  Aiken  calls  Emily  Dickinson's  poetry  'perhaps 
the  finest  by  a  woman  in  the  English  language.'  I  quarrel  only  with  his  'perhaps.' " 
Nor  were  other  plaudits  less  vociferous.  "A  feminine  Blake,"  "an  epigrammatic  Walt 
Whitman,"  "a  New  England  mystic,"  were  a  few  of  the  characterizations  fastened 
upon  her.  Other  appraisals  sought  to  "interpret"  her  involved  but  seldom  obscure 
verses  in  the  light  of  the  "mystery"  of  her  life.  But  "The  Amherst  Nun"  would 
have  repudiated  the  amateur  psychoanalysts  as  vigorously  as  she,  whose  verses  and 
letters  brim  with  mischievous  fancy,  would  have  laughed  at  their  epithets. 

In  1929  there  was  published  another  generous  collection  of  "undiscovered"  or 
"withheld"  poems,  Further  Poems  of  Emily  Dickinson,  edited  by  Martha  Dickinson 


So  EMILY  DICKINSON 

Bianchi  and  Alfred  Leete  Hampson.  There  were  one  hundred  and  seventy-six  hith- 
erto unpublished  pieces,  and  their  clear  beauty  as  well  as  mysterious  appearance,  all 
too  vaguely  explained,  caused  something  of  a  furore.  The  excitement  increased  in 
1930,  the  centenary  of  Emily  Dickinson's  birth.  A  new  volume,  Unpublished  Poems 
by  Emily  Dickinson,  appeared  toward  the  end  of  1935. 

In  the  centenary  year  three  new  biographies  appeared:  Emily  Dickinson:  The 
Human  Background  by  Josephine  Pollitt,  The  Lt]e  and  Mind  of  Emily  Dickinson 
by  Genevieve  Taggard,  and  Emily  Dickinson:  Fnend  and  Neighbor  by  Macgregor 
Jenkins.  Jenkins'  little  book  concerned  itself  chiefly  with  his  boyhood  memories;  it 
was  amiable  and  undistinguished.  It  was  with  the  two  other  full-size  volumes  that 
interpretation  grew  fabulous  and  legend-making  ran  amok.  Had  someone  written 
a  dispassionate  authoritative  life  immediately  after  Emily  Dickinson's  death  this 
could  not  have  happened;  had  Mme.  Bianchi  been  more  explicit  it  could  have  been 
avoided.  But  Mme.  Bianchi  chose  to  tell  a  vague  story  vaguely  and  helped  swell  the 
growing  flood  of  conjecture.  She  spread  the  now  familiar  tale  of  Emily's  "lover"  in 
her  chapter  "The  End  of  Peace."  Mme.  Bianchi  told  of  the  "fateful"  visit  to  Phila- 
delphia, of  an  encounter  with  a  man  already  married — rumor  had  not  scrupled  to 
repeat  the  name  of  the  Reverend  Charles  Wadsworth — of  family's  refusal  to  deviate 
from  "her  high  sense  of  duty"  and  be  "the  inevitable  destruction  of  another  woman's 
life,"  of  a  precipitate  flight  back  to  Amherst,  of  a  pursuit  by  the  reckless  lover,  of  a 
last  agonized  abnegation,  denying  herself  not  only  to  her  lover  but  to  the  world. 
In  Emily  Dickinson  Face  to  Face  (1932)  Mme.  Bianchi  amplified  the  account,  be- 
came more  specific,  and  supplied  further  valuable  details,  proving  among  other 
things  that  Emily's  "dissonant"  rhymes  were  not  accidental  but  calculated. 

The  other  two  biographies  betrayed  far  wilder  attempts  to  supply  "the  missing 
chapter"  and  identify  the  man  who  prompted  the  love  poems.  Josephine  Pollitt 
seized  upon  a  scrap  of  a  letter  written  by  Higgmson,  and  concluded  that  Emily's 
secret  lover  was  Edward  Bissell  Hunt,  the  husband  of  the  talented  author  Helen 
Hunt  (Jackson),  who  happened  to  be  Emily's  closest  friend.  This  theory  was  used 
as  the  basis  of  a  drama,  Buttle  Heaven,  by  Frederick  J.  Pohl  and  Vincent  York,  pro- 
duced m  1934,  a  morc  theatrical  if  less  literary  structure  than  Susan  Glaspell's  earlier 
Alison's  House,  a  play  based  on  the  posthumous  publication  of  the  poems,  which 
won  the  Pulitzer  Prize  for  1932. 

Genevieve  Taggard  in  her  sensitive  though  over-written  study  discovered  an  under- 
graduate who  "conditioned"  Emily  and  her  work.  He  was  George  Gould,  one  of  the 
Indicator  staff  at  Amherst  College,  and  Miss  Taggard  believes  Emily  was  engaged 
to  him  but  that  her  father,  a  fire-breathing  patriarch,  opposed  the  union  in  true  Old 
Testament  New  England  style;  whereupon  Emily  refused  the  young  man,  dressed  in 
white,  and  dismissed  him  from  her  life — except  for  a  prolonged  secret  correspond- 
ence, which  has  never  been  discovered — forever. 

All  the  theories  are  possible.  But  there  are  others  equally  plausible.  It  might  be  sug- 
gested that  there  was  no  love  story  at  all — none,  that  is,  in  the  sense  of  a  mutual 
rappott.  It  was  an  age  of  rhetoric.  Male  friends  wrote  effusively  to  each  other;  Emily 
herself  used  the  word  "love"  indiscriminately.  Whoever  it  was  that  captured  Emily's 
regard  may  have  been  quite  unconscious  of  it.  He  may  have  been  impressed — and  a 
bit  puzzled — by  the  girl's  crisp  rejoinders,  but  he  probably  soon  forgot  the  plain 
girl  with  her  fancy  phrases.  It  may  have  been  nothing  to  him;  to  Emily  it  was  All. 


EMILY  DICKINSON  8j 

This,  too,  is  conjecture.  And  all  of  it  tends  to  belittle  the  poetry  by  a  probing  of 
the  person;  so  lengthy  a  concern  about  the  "mystery"  in  Emily's  life  obscures  the 
mastery  of  her  work.  For  mastery  it  is.  The  seal  of  genius,  that  unmistakable  in- 
signia, is  on  everything  she  wrote.  Here  is  that  inimitable  idiom,  playful  yet 
profound;  here  are  the  rapid  ascent  of  images  and  the  sudden  swoop  of  immensities, 
the  keen  epithet  that  cuts  to  the  deepest  layer  ot  consciousness,  and  the  paradox  on 
whose  point  innumerable  angels  dance.  She  is  Blake  one  moment,  Vaughan  the 
next,  then  Jonathan  Edwards,  and  herself  all  the  time.  Emotion,  idea,  and  words 
are  not  marshaled  in  their  usual  order;  they  spring  simultaneously,  inevitably,  one 
including  the  other.  Here  is  the  effect — never  the  affectation — of  emotion  and  its 
enveloping  phrase. 

More  fully  than  her  biographers  Emily  Dickinson  told  the  secret  of  her  love,  her 
first  rebellious  impulse,  her  inner  denial,  her  resignation,  her  assured  waiting  tor 
reunion  in  Eternity.  There  is  little  to  add  except  meaningless  names  and  irrelevant 
street  numbers. 

I  took  one  draught  of  life, 

I'll  tell  you  what  I  paid, 

Precisely  an  existence — 

The  market-price,  they  said. 

They  weighed  me  dust  by  dust, 
They  balanced  film  with  film, 
Then  handed  me  my  being's  worth — 
A  single  dram  of  Heaven. 

The  poetry  of  Emily  Dickinson  courts  criticism  and  defies  it.  (An  interesting  dis- 
cussion of  her  syntactical  peculiarities,  A  Study  of  Unusual  Verb  Constructions  in  the 
Poems  of  Emily  Dickinson  by  Grace  B.  Sherrer,  may  be  found  in  the  quarterly 
Ameitcan  Ltteiature  for  March,  1935.)  That  her  verses  were  sometimes  erratic, 
half-done,  and  thrown  off  in  the  heat  of  creation  is  self-evident.  But,  in  the  great 
majority  of  her  poems,  the  leap  of  thought  is  so  daring,  the  idea  so  provocative, 
that  passages  which,  in  a  smaller  spirit,  would  be  merely  pretty  or  audacious  con- 
ceits become  snatches  of  revelation.  Is  it  a  flippancy  or  an  anguished  cry  when,  robbed 
by  Life,  she  stands  "a  beggar  before  the  floor  oi  God,"  and  confronts  Him  with 
"Burglar,  banker,  father!"  Is  it  anything  less  than  Olympian  satire  when,  asking 
God  to  accept  "the  supreme  iniquity,"  she  declares: 

We  apologize  to  Thee 
For  Thine  own  duplicity. 

Beauty,  Love,  Justice — these  were  no  abstractions  to  her,  but  entities,  weights  and 
measures,  which  the  architect  had  failed  to  use  perfectly.  She  sought  the  Builder 
not  to  commend  but  to  question  Him.  Emily  argued,  upbraided,  accused  Creation; 
she  recognized  an  angel  only  when  she  wrestled  with  him.  Paradox  was  her  native 
element. 

Her  gnomk  imagery  was  tremendous  in  implication,  and  her  range  is  far  greater 
than  a  first  reading  reveals.  Although  the  poet  often  indulged  herself  by  retreating 
into  a  style  cryptic  and  wayward,  her  tiny  quatrains  are/  lavish  with  huge  ideas  and 
almost  overpowering  figures.  She  speaks  of  music  as  "the  silver  strife";  she  sees  the 


82  EMILY  DICKINSON 

railway  train  "lap  the  miles  and  lick  the  valleys  up";  she  speaks  ironically  of  splitting 
the  lark  to  find  the  music  "bulb  after  bulb  in  silver  rolled";  she  pictures  the  thunder 
crumbling  "like  a  stuff'  while  the  lightning  "skipped  like  mice";  she  glimpses 
evening  as  "the  house-wife  in  the  west"  sweeping  the  sunset  "with  many  colored 
brooms";  she  asks  "who  laid  the  rainbow  piers."  Pondering  on  the  power  of  words, 
she  meditates: 

Could  mortal  lip  divine 
The  undeveloped  freight 

Of  a  delivered  syllable, 

'Twould  crumble  with  the  weight. 

Her  lightest  phrases  bear  the  accent  of  finality.  Without  striving  to  be  clever  sht 
achieves  one  startling  epigram  after  another;  no  poet  ever  existed  with  a  more  apho- 
ristic mind.  "Denial  is  the  only  fact  received  by  the  denied."  "At  leisure  is  the  soul 
that  gets  a  staggering  blow."  "Renunciation  is  the  choosing  against  itself."  "Longing 
is  like  the  seed  that  wrestles  in  the  ground." 

Her  letters,  sometimes  marred  with  affectations,  have  an  unpredictable  way  of 
turning  about  their  subject;  they  combine  the  impish  with  the  mystical;  they  an- 
nounce tremendous  things  in  an  ofthand  tone  of  voice.  Few  definitions  of  poetry 
give  us  the  sense  of  poetry  as  sharply  as  her  informal: 

"If  I  read  a  book  and  it  makes  my  whole  body  so  cold  no  fire  can  ever  warm  me, 
I  know  it  is  poetry.  If  I  feel  physically  as  if  the  top  of  my  head  were  taken  off,  I 
know  this  is  poetry.  These  are  the  only  ways  I  know  it." 

Are  there  no  reservations?  In  the  midst  of  her  telegraphic  concisions — all  sparks 
and  flashes — does  one  never  miss  the  long  line,  the  sustained  breath?  She  lived  in 
metaphor,  and  the  terse  luxuriance  of  her  figures — the  impulse  to  point  every  adjec- 
tive— has  had  an  unhappy  effect  on  most  of  her  admirers,  an  effect  of  pretty  artifice. 
Worse  still  is  her  habit  of  acting  coy  among  the  immensities.  She  is  overfond  of 
playing  the  spoiled,  "old-fashioned,  naughty  child" — a  little  girl  who  sits  in  the  lap 
of  Drily  and  tweaks  His  beard  and  asks  God  coyly  to  lift  her  over  the  stile,  an 
imperious  child  for  whose  success  guns  should  be  fired  at  sea,  for  a  glimpse  of 
whom  saints  should  run  to  windows  and  seraphs  swing  their  snowy  hats.  The 
impulse  to  pirouette  before  the  mirror  of  her  soul  has  already  had  its  result  in  hun- 
dreds of  young  "female  poets"  (Gris wold's  phrase)  who,  lacking  their  model's  in- 
tensities, have  succeeded  only  in  being  verbally  arresting  and  "cute." 

A  critical  appraisal  docs  not  have  to  be  a  condemnatory  one,  but  it  must  steer  a 
course  between  the  early  ridicule  and  the  present  unreserved  adulation.  The  un- 
doubted charm  does  not  necessarily  extend  to  errors  in  grammar,  nor  docs  the  taut, 
uncanny  Tightness  of  her  epithets  disguise  her  frequent  failure  to  differentiate 
between  inspiration  and  whim.  Can  one,  need  one,  applaud  all  the  eccentricities,  the 
familiarities,  the  pertnesses-5  Banter  may  be  refreshing,  but  is  archness  with  God 
always  delightful ?  And  what  is  one  to  say  of  that  more  reprehensible  spinsterly 
failing,  archness  to  children ? 

And  yet  >t  is  a  tough  and  poetry-resisting  soul  which  does  not  eventually  succumb 
to  her  rhetoric,  irregularities  and  all.  Her  vivacity  covers  self-consciousness  and  carries 
off  her  contradictions.  Her  swift  condensations — surpassed  by  no  writer  of  any  age — 
win  the  most  reluctant.  One.  gasps  at  the  way  she  packs  huge  ideas  into  an  explosive 
quatrain  (a  living  poet  has  called  her  verse  "uncombusted  meteors")  fascinated  by 


EMILY  DICKINSON  83 

an  utterance  so  paradoxical,  so  seemingly  naive,  so  actually  metaphysical.  She  may 
annoy  us  with  her  self-indulgent  waywardness,  but  illumination  is  never  far  off; 
out  of  a  smooth,  even  sentimental  sky,  comes  a  crackling  telegram  trom  God  and, 
tucked  in  a  phrase,  the  "imperial  thunderbolt  that  scalps  your  naked  soul." 

The  obvious  defects  and  quaint  irregularities  have  been  accepted;  they  even  have 
a  charm  of  their  own.  The  brilliance  of  her  imagery  blinds  us  to  her  overfrequent 
coyness  and  the  overstressed  self-pity  which  could  allow  the  poet  to  call  herself 
"Empress  of  Calvary."  The  consistency  of  her  imperfections  is,  in  itself,  a  kind  of 
perfection.  Her  personal  magic — a  kind  of  super-observation — lives  in  such  phrases  as 
a  dog's  "belated  feet,  like  intermittent  plush,"  a  humming  bird  whose  flight  is  "a 
route  of  evanescence,  a  resonance  of  emerald,"  an  engine  "neighing  like  Boanerges," 
a  mushroom  whose  whole  career  "is  shorter  than  a  snake's  delay,"  the  wind  "tap- 
ping like  a  tired  man." 

What  else,  then,  matters  ?  Whatever  the  provocation,  all  that  remains  is  the  poetry. 
The  much-sought  but  still  unknown  inspirer  of  the  love  poems  may  have  been 
Wads  worth  or  Gould  or  Hunt — or  Legion — but  it  is  not  he  who  is  immortalized  in 
her  book;  it  is  Emily.  Though  there  are  evocations  of  the  vanished  lover,  we  are 
never  made  to  see  him,  hear  him,  realize  his  being,  whereas  we  have  (in  the  same 
poems)  a  complete  projection  of  Emily,  her  heart,  soul,  and  housekeeping,  her  books, 
birds,  and  influences,  her  bodily  postures,  tricks  of  thought,  even  her  way  of  crossing 
the  room  and  reading  a  letter. 

Denied  a  public,  even  of  one,  Emily  perfected  her  imperfections  in  secret.  Lacking 
the  partner,  she  played  her  game  with  herself.  Yet,  when  all  the  biographies  are  con- 
sidered and  contrasted,  possibly  the  most  successful  game  was  the  one  she  played  on 
the  world.  A  solitary  recluse  who  had  the  world  in  her  garden;  an  escapist  who 
summoned  infinity  with  the  trick  of  a  forefinger  and  the  crook  of  her  mind  It  is 
doubtful  if,  in  spite  of  her  geographical  isolation,  there  was  ever  a  less  lonely  woman. 
She  who  contained  a  universe  did  not  need  the  world.  Everything,  whether  seen  or 
imagined,  lived  for  her  in  full  immediacy;  all,  she  knew,  existed  only  in  thought. 
"Captivity's  consciousness,"  she  said,  "so's  liberty."  In  that  rich  and  nimble  con- 
sciousness she  was  always  at  home — and  always  free. 


I    TASTE    A    LIQUOR    NEVER 
BREWED 

taste  a  liquor  never  brewed, 
7rom  tankards  scooped  in  pearl; 
^ot  all  the  vats  upon  the  Rhine 
field  such  an  alcohol' 

nebriate  of  air  am  I, 

\nd  debauchee  of  dew, 

leelmg,  through  endless  summer  days, 

7rom  inns  of  molten  blue. 

Afhen  landlords  turn  the  drunken  bee 
Dut  of  the  foxglove's  door, 
Afheai  butterflies  renounce  their  drams, 
shall  but  drink  the  more! 


Till  seraphs  swing  their  snowy  hats, 
And  saints  to  windows  run, 
To  see  the  little  tippler 
Leaning  against  the  sun! 

A    BIRD    CAME    DOWN    THE    WALK 

A  bird  came  down  the  walk: 
He  did  not  know  I  saw; 
He  bit  an  angle- worm  in  halves 
And  ate  the  fellow,  raw. 

And  then  he  drank  a  dew 

From  a  convenient  grass, 

And  then  hopped  sidevyise  to  the  wall 

To  let  a  beetle  pass. 


84 


EMILY  DICKINSON 


He  glanced  with  rapid  eyes 

That  hurried  all  abroad, — 

They  looked  like  frightened  beads,  I  thought 

He  stirred  his  velvet  head 

Like  one  in  danger;  cautious, 
I  offered  him  a  crumb, 
And  he  unrolled  his  feathers 
And  rowed  him  softer  home 

Than  oars  divide  the  ocean, 
Too  silver  for  a  seam, 
Or  butterflies,  off  banks  of  noon, 
Leap,  plashless,  as  they  swim. 


ELYSIUM    IS    AS    FAR 

Elysium  is  as  far  as  to 
The  very  nearest  room, 
If  m  that  room  a  friend  await 
Felicity  or  doom. 

What  fortitude  the  soul  contains, 
That  it  can  so  endure 
The  accent  of  a  coming  foot, 
The  opening  of  a  door. 


INDIAN    SUMMER 

These  are  the  days  when  birds  come  back, 
A  very  few,  a  bird  or  two, 
To  take  a  backward  look. 


These  are  the  days  when  skies  put  on 
The  old,  old  sophistries  of  June, — 
A  blue  and  gold  mistake. 

Oh,  fraud  that  cannot  cheat  the  bee, 
Almost  thy  plausibility 
Induces  my  belief, 

Till  ranks  of  seeds  their  witness  bear, 
And  softly  through  the  altered  air 
Hurries  a  timid  leafl 

Oh,  sacrament  of  summer  days, 
Oh,  last  communion  in  the  haze, 
Permit  a  child  to  join, 

Thy  sacred  emblems  to  partake, 
•Thy  consecrated  bread  to  break, 
Taste  thine  immortal  wine' 


I    NEVER    SAW    A    MOOR 

I  never  saw  a  moor, 

I  never  saw  the  sea; 

Yet  know  I  how  the  heather  looks, 

And  what  a  wave  must  be. 

I  never  spoke  with  God, 
Nor  visited  in  Heaven; 
Yet  certain  am  I  of  the  spot 
As  if  the  chart  were  given. 


I    NEVER    LOST    AS    MUCH 

I  never  lost  as  much  but  twice, 
And  that  was  m  the  sod; 
Twice  have  I  stood  a  beggar 
Before  the  door  of  God! 

Angels,  twice  descending, 
Reimbursed  my  store. 
Burglar,  banker,  father, 
'I  am  poor  once  moftl 


I    DIED    FOR    BEAUTY 

I  died  for  beauty,  but  was  scarce 
Adjusted  in  the  tomb, 
When  one  who  died  for  truth  was  lain 
In  an  adjoining  room. 

He  questioned  softly  why  I  failed? 
"For  beauty,"  I  replied. 
"And  I  for  truth, — the  two  are  one; 
We  brethren  are,"  he  said. 

And  so,  as  kinsmen  met  a  night, 
We  talked  between  the  rooms, 
Until  the  moss  had  reached  our  lips 
And  covered  up  our  names. 


THE    SKY    IS    LOW 

The  sky  is  low,  the  clouds  are  mean, 
A  traveling  flake  of  snow 
Across  a  barn  or  through  a  rut 
Debates  if  it  will  go. 


EMILY  DICKINSON 

A  narrow  wind  complains  all  day 
How  someone  treated  him. 
Nature,  like  us,  is  sometimes  caught 
Without  her  diadem. 


MYSTERIES 

The  murmur  of  a  bee 
A  witchcraft  yieldeth  me. 
If  any  ask  me  why, 
'Twere  easier  to  die 
Than  tell. 

The  red  upon  the  hill 
Taketh  away  my  will; 
If  anybody  sneer, 
Take  care,  for  God  is  here, 
That's  all. 

The  breaking  of  the  day 
Addeth  to  my  degree; 
If  any  ask  me  how, 
Artist,  who  drew  me  so, 
Must  tell! 


I    LIKE    TO    SEE    IT    LAP 
THE    MILES 

I  like  to  see  it  lap  the  miles, 
And  lick  the  valleys  up, 
And  stop  to  feed  itself  at  tanks; 
And  then,  prodigious,  step 

Around  a  pile  of  mountains, 
And,  supercilious,  peer 
In  shanties  by  the  sides  of  roads; 
And  then  a  quarry  pare 

To  fit  its  sides,  and  crawl  between, 
Complaining  all  the  while 
In  horrid,  hooting  stanza; 
Then  chase  itself  down  hill 

And  neigh  like  Boanerges;  . 
Then,  punctual  as  a  star, 
Stop— docile  and  omnipotent — 
At  its  own  stable  door. 


THE    SOUL    SELECTS 

The  soul  selects  her  own  society, 
Then  shuts  the  door; 


«5 


On  her  divine  majority 
Obtrude  no  more. 


Unmoved,  she  notes  the  chariots  pausing 
At  her  low  gate; 

Unmoved,  an  emperor  is  kneeling 
Upon  her  mat. 

I've  known  her  from  an  ample  nation 
Choose  one; 

Then  close  the  valves  of  her  attention 
Like  stone. 


MY    LIFE    CLOSED    TWICE    BEFORE 
ITS    CLOSE 

My  life  closed  twice  before  its  close; 
It  yet  remains  to  sec 
If  Immortality  unveil 
A  third  event  to  me, 

So  huge,  so  hopeless  to  conceive, 
As  these  that  twice  befell. 
Parting  is  all  we  know  of  heaven, 
And  all  we  need  of  hell. 


THE    HEART    ASKS    PLEASURE 
FIRST 

The  heart  asks  pleasure  first; 
And  then,  excuse  from  pain; 
And  then,  those  little  anodynes 
That  deaden  suffering; 

And  then,  to  go  to  sleep; 
And  then,  if  it  should  be 
The  will  of  its  Inquisrtor, 
The  liberty  to  die. 

• 

I    CANNOT    LIVE    WITH    YOU 

I  cannot  live  with  you. 
It  would  be  life, 
And  life  is  over  there 
Behind  the  shelf 

The  sexton  keeps  the  key  to, 
Putting  up 

Our  life,  his  porcelain, 
Like  a  cup 


86 


EMILY  DICKINSON 


Discarded  of  the  housewife, 
Quaint  or  broken; 
A  newer  Sevres  pleases, 
Old  ones  crack. 

I  could  not  die  with  you, 
For  one  must  wait 
To  shut  the  other's  gaze  down, 
You  could  not. 

And  I,  could  I  stand  by 
And  see  you  freeze, 
Without  my  right  of  frost, 
Death's  privilege? 

Nor  could  I  rise  with  you, 
Because  your  face 
Would  put  out  Jesus', 
That  new  grace 

Grow  plain  and  foreign 
On  my  homesick  eye, 
Except  that  you,  than  he 
Shone  closer  by. 

They'd  judge  us — how? 

For  you  served  Heaven,  you  know, 

Or  sought  to; 

I  could  not, 

Because  you  saturated  sight, 
And  I  had  no  more  eyes 
For  sordid  excellence 
As  Paradise. 

And  were  you  lost,  I  would  be, 

Though  my  name 

Rang  loudest 

On  the  heavenly  fame. 

And  were  you  saved, 
And  I  condemned  to  be 
Where  you  were  not, 
That  self  were  hell  to  me. 

So  we  must  keep  apart, 

You  there,  I  here, 

With  just  the  door  ajar 

That  oceans  are, 

And  prayer, 

And  that  pale  sustenance, 

Despair! 


OF    COURSE    I    PRAYED 

Of  course  I  prayed — 

And  did  God  care? 

He  cared  as  much  as 

On  the  air 

A  bird  had  stamped  her  foot 

And  cried  "Give  me!" 

My  reason,  life, 

I  had  not  had,  but  for  yourself. 

'Twere  better  charity 

To  leave  me  in  the  atom's  tomb, 

Merry  and  nought  and  gay  and  numb, 

Than  this  smart  misery. 


THERE    IS    NO    FRIGATE    LIKE 
A    BOOK 

There  is  no  frigate  like  a  book 

To  take  us  lands  away, 
Nor  any  coursers  like  a  page 

Of  prancing  poetry. 
This  traverse  may  the  poorest  take 

Without  oppress  of  toll; 
How  frugal  is  the  chariot 

That  bears  a  human  soul! 


I    HAD    BEEN    HUNGRY    ALL 
THE    YEARS 

I  had  been  hungry  all  the  years; 
My  noon  had  come  to  dine; 
I,  trembling,  drew  the  table  near, 
And  touched  the  curious  wine. 

'Twas  this  on  tables  I  had  seen, 
When  turning,  hungry,  lone, 
I  looked  m  windows,  for  the  wealth 
I  could  not  hope  to  own. 

I  did  not  know  the  ample  bread; 
'Twas  so  unlike  the  crumb 
The  birds  and  I  had  often  shared 
In  Nature's  dining-room. 

The  plenty  hurt  me,  'twas  so  new, — 
Myself  felt  ill  and  odd, 
As  berry  of  a  mountain  bush 
Transplanted  to  the  road. 


EMILY  DICKINSON 


Nor  was  I  hungry;  so  I  found 
That  hunger  was  a  way 
Of  persons  outside  windows, 
The  entering  takes  away. 


I    HEARD    A    FLY    BUZZ    WHEN 
I    DIED 

I  heard  a  fly  buzz  when  I  died; 

The  stillness  round  my  form 
Was  like  the  stillness  in  the  air 

Between  the  heaves  of  storm. 

The  eyes  beside  had  wrung  them  dry, 
And  breaths  were  gathering  sure 

For  that  last  onset,  when  the  king 
Be  witnessed  in  his  power. 

I  willed  my  keepsakes,  signed  away 

What  portion  of  me  I 
Could  make  assignable, — and  then 

There  interposed  a  fly, 

With  blue,  uncertain,  stumbling  buzz, 

Between  the  light  and  me; 
And  then  the  windows  failed,  and  then 

I  could  not  see  to  see. 


THERE    S    A    CERTAIN    SLANT 
OF    LIGHT 

There's  a  certain  slant  of  light, 
On  winter  afternoons, 
That  oppresses,  like  the  weight 
Of  cathedral  tunes. 

Heavenly  hurt  it  gives  us; 
We  can  find  no  scar, 
But  internal  difference 
Where  the  meanings  are. 

None  may  teach  it  anything, 
'Tis  the  seal,  despair, — 
An  imperial  affliction 
Sent  us  of  the  air. 

When  it  comes,  the  landscape  listens, 
Shadows  hold  their  breath; 
When  it  goes,  'tis  like  the  distance 
On  the  look  of  death. 


I  MEASURE  EVERY  GRIEF  I  MEET 

I  measure  every  griet  I  meet 

With  analytic  eyes; 
I  wonder  it  it  weighs  like  mine, 

Or  has  an  easier  size. 

I  wonder  if  they  bore  it  long, 

Or  did  it  just  begin? 
I  could  not  tell  the  date  of  mine, 

It  feels  so  old  a  pain. 

I  wonder  if  it  hurts  to  live, 

And  if  they  have  to  try, 
And  whether,  could  they  choose  between, 

They  would  not  rather  die. 

I  wonder  if  when  years  have  piled — 
Some  thousands — on  the  cause 

Of  early  hurt,  it  such  a  lapse 
Could  give  them  any  pause; 

Or  would  they  go  on  aching  still 

Through  centuries  above, 
Enlightened  to  a  larger  pain 

By  contrast  with  the  love. 

Thd  grieved  are  many,  I  am  told; 

The  reason  deeper  lies, — 
Death  is  but  one  and  comes  but  once, 

And  only  nails  the  eyes. 

There's  grief  of  want,  and  grief  of  cold, — 

A  sort  they  call  "despair"; 
There's  banishment  from  native  eyes, 

In  sight  of  native  air. 

And  though  I  may  not  guess  the  kind 

Correctly,  yet  to  me 
A  piercing  comfort  it  affords 

In  passing  Calvary, 

To  note  the  fashions  of  the  cross, 

Of  those  that  stand  alone, 
Still  fascinated  to  presume 

That  some  arc  like  my  own. 


THE    BRAIN    IS    WIDER    THAN 
THE    SKY 

The  brain  is  wider  than  the  sky, 
For,  put  them  side  by  side, 


EMILY  DICKINSON 


The  one  the  other  will  include 
With  ease,  and  you  beside. 

The  brain  is  deeper  than  the  sea, 
For,  hold  them,  blue  to  blue, 

The  one  the  other  will  absorb, 
As  sponges,  buckets  do. 

The  brain  is  just  the  weight  of  God, 
For,  lift  them,  pound  for  pound, 

And  they  will  differ,  if  they  do, 
As  syllable  from  sound. 


BRING    ME    THE    SUNSET 
IN    A    CUP 

Bring  me  the  sunset  in  a  cup, 
Reckon  the  morning's  flagons  up, 

And  say  how  many  dew; 
Tell  me  how  far  the  morning  leaps, 
Tell  me  what  time  the  weaver  sleeps 

Who  spun  the  breadths  of  blue! 

Write  me  how  many  notes  there  be 
In  the  new  robin's  ecstasy 

Among  astonished  boughs; 
How  many  trips  the  tortoise  makes, 
How  many  cups  the  bee  partakes, — 

The  debauchee  of  dews' 

Also,  who  laid  the  rainbow's  piers, 
Also,  who  leads  the  docile  spheres 

By  withes  of  supple  blue? 
Whose  fingers  string  the  stalactite, 
Who  counts  the  wampum  of  the  night, 

To  see  that  none  is  due? 

Who  built  this  little  Alban  house 
And  shut  the  windows  down  so  close 

My  spirit  cannot  see? 
Who'll  let  me  out  some  gala  day, 
With  implements  to  fly  away, 

Passing  pomposity? 


THE    TINT    I    CANNOT    TAKE 
IS    BEST 

The  tint  I  cannot  take  is  best, 
The  color  too  remote 
That  I  could  show  it  in  bazaar 
A  guinea  at  a  sight— 


The  fine  impalpable  array 
That  swaggers  on  the  eye 
Like  Cleopatra's  company 
Repeated  in  the  sky — 

The  moments  of  dominion 
That  happen  on  the  Soul 
And  leave  it  with  a  discontent 
Too  exquisite  to  tell — 

The  eager  look  on  landscapes 
As  if  they  just  repressed 
Some  secret  that  was  pushing, 
Like  chariots,  in  the  breast — 

The  pleading  of  the  Summer, 
That  other  prank  of  snow 
That  covers  mystery  with  tulle 
For  fear  the  squirrels  know — 

Their  graspless  manners  mock  us, 
Until  the  cheated  eye 
Shuts  arrogantly  in  the  grave, 
Another  way  to  see. 


I    DREADED    THAT    FIRST    ROBIN    SO 

I  dreaded  that  first  robin  so, 

But  he  is  mastered  now, 

And  I'm  accustomed  to  him  grown, — 

He  hurts  a  little,  though. 

I  thought  if  I  could  only  live 
Till  that  first  shout  got  by, 
Not  all  pianos  in  the  woods 
Had  power  to  mangle  me. 

I  dared  not  meet  the  daffodils, 
For  fear  their  yellow  gown 
Would  pierce  me  with  a  fashion 
So  foreign  to  my  own. 

I  wished  the  grass  would  hurry, 
So  when  'twas  time  to  see, 
He'd  be  too  tall,  the  tallest  one 
Could  sfretch  to  look  at  me. 

I  could  not  bear  the  bees  should  come, 
I  wished  they'd  stay  away 
In  those  dim  countries  where  they  go: 
What  word  had  they  for  me? 


EMILY  DICKINSON 


They're  here,  though;  not  a  creature  failed, 
No  blossom  stayed  away 
In  gentle  deference  to  me, 
A  Queen  of  Calvary. 

Each  one  salutes  me  as  he  goes, 
And  I  my  childish  plumes 
Lift,  in  bereaved  acknowledgment 
Of  their  unthinking  drums.  * 


AFTER    GREAT    PAIN    A    FORMAL 
FEELING    COMES 

After  great  pain  a  formal  feeling  comes — 
The  nerves  sit  ceremonious  like  tombs; 
The  stiff  heart  questions — was  it  He  that 

bore? 
And  yesterday — or  centuries  before? 

The  feet  mechanical  go  round 

A  wooden  way, 

Of  ground  or  air  of  Ought, 

Regardless  grown; 

A  quartz  contentment  like  a  stone. 

This  is  the  hour  of  lead 
Remembered  if  outlived 
As  freezing  persons  recollect 
The  snow — 

First  chill,  then  stupor,  then 
The  letting  go. 


A    CEMETERY 

This  quiet  Dust  was  Gentlemen  and  Ladies, 

And  Lads  and  Girls; 
Was  laughter  and  ability  and  sighing, 

And  frocks  and  curls. 

This  passive  place  a  Summer's  nimble  man- 
sion, 

Where  Bloom  and  Bees 
Fulfilled  their  Oriental  Circuit, 

Then  ceased  like  these. 


Be  its  mattress  straight, 
Be  its  pillow  round; 
Let  no  sunrise*  yellow  noise 
Interrupt  this  ground. 


ALTHOUGH    I    PUT    AWAY 
HIS    LIFE 

Although  I  put  away  his  life, 
An  ornament  too  grand 
For  forehead  low  as  mine  to  wear, 
This  might  have  been  the  hand 

That  sowed  the  flowers  he  preferred, 
Or  smoothed  a  homely  pain, 
Or  puslied  a  pebble  from  his  path, 
Or  played  his  chosen  tune 

On  lute  the  least,  the  latest, 
But  just  his  ear  could  know 
That  whatsoe'er  delighted  it 
I  never  would  let  go. 

The  foot  to  bear  his  errand 
A  little  boot  I  know 
Would  leap  abroad  like  antelope 
With  just  the  grant  to  do. 

His  weariest  commandment 

A  sweeter  to  obey 

Than  "Hide  and  Seek,"  or  skip  to  flutes, 

Or  all  day  chase  the  bee. 

Your  servant,  Sir,  will  weary, 
The  surgeon  will  not  come, 
The  world  will  have  its  own  to  do, 
The  dust  will  vex  your  fame 

The  cold  will  force  your  tightest  door 
Some  February  day, 
But  say  my  apron  bring  the  sticks 
To  make  your  cottage  gay, 

That  I  may  take  that  promise 
To  Paradise  with  me — 
To  teach  the  angels  avarice 
Your  kiss  first  taught  to  me! 


AMPLE    MAKE    THIS    BED 

Ample  make  this  bed, 
Make  this  bed  with  awe; 
In  it  wait  till  judgment  break 
Excellent  and  fair. 


THE  WORLD  FEELS  DUSTY 

The  world  feels  dusty 
When  we  stop  to  die; 
We  want  the  dew  then, 
Honors  taste  dry. 


po 

Flags  vex  a  dying  face, 
But  the  least  fan 
Stirred  by  a  friend's  hand 
Cools  like  the  rain. 

Mine  be  the  ministry 
When  thy  thirst  comes, 
Dews  of  thyself  to  fetch 
And  holy  balms. 

LIGHTLY  STEPPED  A  YELLOW 
STAR 

Lightly  stepped  a  yellow  star 
To  its  lofty  place, 
Loosed  the  Moon  her  silver  hat 
From  her  lustral  face. 


EMILY  DICKINSON 

All  of  evening  softly  lit 

As  an  astral  hall — 

"Father,"  I  observed  to  Heaven, 

"You  are  punctual!" 


GO  NOT  TOO  NEAR  A  HOUSE 
OF  ROSE 

Go  not  too  near  a  house  of  rose, 
The  depredation  of  a  breeze 
Or  inundation  of  a  dew 
Alarm  its  walls  away; 
Nor  try  to  tie  the  butterfly; 
Nor  climb  the  bars  of  ecstasy. 
In  insecurity  to  lie 
Is  joy's  insuring  quality. 


I  RECKON,  WHEN  I  COUNT  AT  ALL 

I  reckon,  when  I  count  at  all, 

First  Poets— then  the  Sun — 

Then  Summer — then  the  Heaven  of  God — 

And  then  the  list  is  done. 

But  looking  back — the  first  so  seems 

To  comprehend  the  whole — 

The  others  look  a  needless  show, 

So  I  write  Poets — All. 

Their  summer  lasts  a  solid  year, 

They  can  afford  a  sun 

The  East  would  deem  extravagant, 

And  if  the  final  Heaven 

Be  beautiful  as  they  disclose 

To  those  who  trust  in  them, 

It  is  too  difficult  a  grace 

To  justify  the  dream. 


BECAUSE    THAT    YOU    ARE    GOING 


Because  that  you  are  going 
And  never  coming  back 
And  I,  however  absolute 
May  overlook  your  track 

Because  that  breath  is  final, 
However  first  it  be 
This  instant  be  suspended 
Above  Mortality. 

Significance  that  each  has  lived 
The  other  to  detect 
Discovery  not  God  himself 
Could  now  annihilate. 


Eternity,  Presumption 
The  instant  I  perceive 
That  you,  who  were  existence 
Yourself  forgot  to  live. 

The  "Life  that  is"  will  then  have  been 
A  thing  I  never  knew, 
As  Paradise  fictitious 
Until  the  Realm  of  you. 

The  "Life  that  is  to  be,"  to  me 
A  Residence  too  plain 
Unless  in  my  Redeemer's  Face 
I  recognize  your  own. 


EMILY  DICKINSON 

Of  Immortality  who  doubts  If  "God  is  Love"  as  he  admits 

He  may  exchange  with  me  We  think  that  he  must  be 

Curtailed  by  your  obscuring  Face  Because  he  is  a  "jealous  God" 

Of  Everything  but  He.  He  tells  as  certainly. 

Of  Heaven  and  Hell  I  also  yield  If  "all  is  possible  with  him" 

The  Right  to  reprehend  As  he  besides  concedes, 

To  whoso  would  commute  this  Face  He  will  refund  as  finally 

For  his  less  priceless  Friend.  Our  confiscated  Gods. 


WHAT    SOFT,    CHERUBIC    CREATURES 

What  soft,  cherubic  creatures 

These  gentlewomen  are' 
One  would  as  soon  assault  a  plush 

Or  violate  a  star. 

Such  dimity  convictions, 

A  horror  so  refined 
Of  freckled  human  nature, 

Of  Deity  ashamed, — 

It's  such  a  common  glory, 

A  fisherman's  degree! 
Redemption,  brittle  lady, 

Be  so  ashamed  of  thcc. 


BECAUSE     I     COULD    NOT    STOP     FOR    DEATH 

Because  I  could  not  stop  for  Death, 
He  kindly  stopped  for  me; 
The  carriage  held  but  just  ourselves 
And  Immortality. 

We  slowly  drove,  he  knew  no  haste, 
And  I  had  put  away 
My  labor,  and  my  leisure  too, 
For  his  civility. 

We  passed  the  school  where  children  played, 

Their  lessons  scarcely  done; 

We  passed  the  fields  of  gazing  grain, 

We  passed  the  setting  sun. 

We  paused  before  a  house  that  seemed 
A  swelling  on  the  ground; 
The  roof  was  scarcely  visible, 
The  cornice  but  a  mound. 

Since  then  'tis  centuries;  but  each 
Feels  shorter  than  the  day 
I  first  surmised  the  horses'  heads 
Were  toward  eternity. 


92  EMILY  DICKINSON 

THE    MOUNTAINS    GROW    UNNOTICED 

The  mountains  grow  unnoticed, 
Their  purple  figures  rise 
Without  attempt,  exhaustion, 
Assistance  or  applause. 

In  their  eternal  faces 
The  sun  with  broad  delight 
Looks  long — and  last — and  golden 
For  fellowship  at  night. 


TRUTH    IS    AS    OLD    AS    GOD 

Truth  is  as  old  as  God, 

His  twin  identity — 

And  will  endure  as  long  as  He, 

A  co-eternity, 

And  perish  on  the  clay 

That  He  is  borne  away 

Fiom  mansion  of  the  universe, 

A  lifeless  Deity. 


John  Hay 


JOHN  HAY  was  born  October  8,  1838,  in  Salem,  Indiana,  graduated  from  Brown 
University  in  1858  and  was  admitted  to  the  Illinois  bar  a  few  years  later.  At 
nineteen,  when  he  went  back  to  Warsaw,  the  little  Mississippi  town  where  he  had 
lived  as  a  boy,  he  dreamed  only  of  being  a  poet — a  poet,  it  must  be  added,  of  the 
pleasantly  conventional,  transition  type.  But  the  Civil  War  was  to  disturb  his  mild 
fantasies.  He  went  to  the  front  and  saw  active  service  under  General  Hunter.  He 
became  private  secretary  to  Lincoln,  then  major  and  assistant  adjutant-general  under 
General  Gilmore,  then  a  colonel  by  brevet,  then  secretary  of  the  Legation  at  Pans, 
charge  d'affaires  at  Vienna  and  Secretary  of  Legation  at  Madrid. 

His  few  vivid  Pi\e  County  Ballads  came  more  as  a  happy  accident  than  as  a 
deliberate  creative  cflort.  When  Hay  returned  from  Spain  m  1870,  bringing  with 
him  his  Castilian  Days,  he  still  had  visions  of  becoming  an  orthodox  lyric  poet.  But 
he  found  everyone  reading  Bret  Harte's  short  stories  and  the  new  expression  of  the 
rude  West.  He  speculated  upon  the  possibility  of  doing  something  similar,  translating 
the  characters  into  poetry.  The  result  was  the  six  racy  ballads  in  a  vein  utterly  dif- 
ferent from  everything  Hay  wrote  before  or  after.  The  poet-politician  seems  to  have 
regarded  this  series  somewhat  in  the  nature  of  light,  extempore  verse,  belonging  to  a 
far  lower  plane  than  his  serious  publications;  he  talked  about  them  reluctantly;  he 
even  hoped  that  these  "diversions"  would  be  forgotten.  It  is  difficult  to  say  whether 
this  regret  grew  because  Hay,  loving  the  refinements  of  culture,  at  heart  hated  any 


JOHN  HAY  9; 

suggestion  of  vulgarity,  or  because  of  a  basic  lack  of  courage — Hay  having  published 
his  novel  of  labor  unrest  in  the  early  8o's  (The  Eieadwinneis)  anonymously. 

The  fact  remains,  his  rhymes  of  Pike  County  have  survived  all  his  more  "clas- 
sical" lines.  They  served  for  a  time  as  a  fresh  influence;  they  remain  a  creative 
accomplishment.  "Banty  Tim"  is  quoted  not  only  ior  its  own  sake,  but  as  an  inter- 
esting anticipation  of  Kipling's  "Gunga  Dm";  "Jim  Bkulso"  was  the  first  of  a  long 
line  of  dramatic  "recitations." 

Hay  was  in  politics  all  the  later  part  of  his  life,  ranking  as  one  of  the  most  bril- 
liant Secretaries  of  State  the  country  has  ever  had.  Under  President  Hayes  he  was 
ambassador  to  Great  Britain.  In  collaboration  with  J.  G.  Nicolay  he  wrote  a  most 
authoritative  and  vivid  life  of  Lincoln,  a  biography  which  was  uncqualed  until  Carl 
Sandburg's  volumes.  He  died  in  1905. 


>  JIM  BLUDSO 
OF  THE  PRAIRIE  BELLE 

Wall,  no'  I  can't  ttll  whar  he  lives, 

Becase  he  don't  live,  you  sec; 
Leastways,  he's  got  out  of  the  habit 

Of  livm'  like  you  and  me. ' 
Whar  have  you  been  for  the  last  three  year 

That  you  haven't  heard  folks  tell 
How  Jimmy  Bludso  passed  in  his  checks 

The  night  of  the  Prairie  Belle ? 

He  warn't  no  saint, — them  engineers 

Is  all  pretty  much  alike, — 
One  wife  in  Natchez-undcr-thc-Hill 

And  another  one  here,  in  Pike; 
A  keerlcss  man  in  his  talk  was  Jim, 

And  an  awkward  hand  in  a  row, 
But  he  never  flunked,  and  he  never  lied, — 

I  reckon  he  never  knowed  how. 

And  this  was  all  the  religion  he  had: 

To  treat  his  engine  well; 
Never  be  passed  on  the  river; 

To  mind  the  pilot's  bell; 
And  if  ever  the  Prairie  Belle  took  fire, 

A  thousand  times  he  swore, 
He'd  hold  her  nozzle  agin  the  bank 

Till  the  last  soul  got  ashore. 

All  boats  has  their  day  on  the  Mississip, 

And  her  day  come  at  last, — 
The  Movastar  was  a  better  boat, 

But  the  Belle  she  wouldn't  be  passed. 
And  so  she  came  tearm'  along  that  night — 

The  oldest  craft  on  the  line — 
With  a  nigger  squat  on  her  safety-valve, 

And  her  furnace  crammed,  rosin  and  pine. 


The  fiic  bust  out  as  she  clar'd  the  bar, 

And  burnt  a  hole  in  the  night, 
And  quick  as  a  flash  she  turned  and  made 

For  that  wilier-bank  on  the  right. 
Thar  was  runnm'  and  cussm',  but  Jim  yelled 
out, 

Over  all  the  infernal  roar, 
'Til  hold  her  no/yle  agin  the  bank 

Till  the  last  galoot's  ashore." 

Through  the  hot,  black  breath  of  the  burnin' 
boat 

Jim  Bludso's  voice  was  heard, 
And  they  all  had  tiust  in  his  cussedness, 

And  knowed  he  would  keep  his  woid. 
And,  sine's  you're  born,  they  all  got  off 

Afore  the  smokestacks  fell, — 
And  Bludso's  ghost  went  up  alone 

In  the  smoke  of  the  Prairie  Belle. 

He  warn't  no  saint,— but  at  judgement 

I'd  run  my  chance  with  Jim, 
'Longside  of  some  pious  gentlemen 

That  wouldn't  shook  hands  with  him. 
He  seen  his  duty,  a  dead-sure  thing, — 

And  went  for  it  thar  and  then; 
And  Christ  ain't  a-gom'  to  be  too  hard 

On  a  man  that  died  for  men. 


BANTY    TIM 

(Remaps  of  Sergeant  Tilmon  Joy  to  the 
White  Mans  Committee  of  Spunky  Point, 
Illinois) 

I  reckon  I  git  your  drift,  gents, — 
You  'low  the  boy  sha'n't  stay; 


94 

This  is  a  white  man's  country; 

You're  Dimocrats,  you  say; 
And  whereas,  and  seem',  and  wherefore, 

The  times  bein'  all  out  o'  j'int, 
The  nigger  has  got  to  mosey 

From  the  limits  o'  Spunky  P'int! 

Let's  reason  the  thing  a  minute: 

I'm  an  old-fashioned  Dimocrat  too, 
Though  I  laid  my  politics  out  o'  the  way 

For  to  keep  till  the  war  was  through. 
But  I  come  back  here,  allowm' 

To  vote  as  I  used  to  do, 
Though  it  gravels  me  like  the  devil  to  train 

Along  o'  sich  fools  as  you. 

Now  dog  my  cats  ef  I  kin  see, 

In  all  the  light  of  the  day, 
What  you've  got  to  do  with  the  question 

Ef  Tim  shill  go  or  stay. 
And  furder  than  that  I  give  notice, 

Ef  one  of  you  tetches  the  boy, 
He  km  check  his  trunks  to  a  warmer  clime 

Than  he'll  find  in  Illanoy. 

Why,  blame  your  hearts,  jest  hear  me! 

You  know  that  ungodly  day 
When  our  left  struck  Vicksburg  Heights, 
how  ripped 

And  torn  and  tattered  we  lay. 
When  the  rest  retreated  I  stayed  behind, 

Fur  reasons  sufficient  to  me, — 


JOHN  HAY 

With  a  rib  caved  in,  and  a  leg  on  a  strike, 
I  sprawled  on  that  damned  glacee. 

Lord'  how  the  hot  sun  went  for  us, 

And  br'iled  and  blistered  and  burned! 
How  the  Rebel  bullets  whizzed  round  us 

When  a  cuss  in  his  death-grip  turned! 
Till  along  toward  dusk  I  seen  a  thing 

I  couldn't  believe  for  a  spell: 
That  nigger — that  Tim — was  a-crawlin*  to 
me 

Through  that  fire-proof,  gilt-edged  hell! 

The  Rebels  seen  him  as  quick  as  me, 

And  the  bullets  buzzed  like  bees; 
But  he  jumped  for  me,  and  shouldered  me, 

Though  a  shot  brought  him  once  to  his 

knees; 
But  he  staggered  up,  and  packed  me  oil, 

With  a  dozen  stumbles  and  falls, 
Till  safe  in  our  lines  he  drapped  us  both, 

His  black  hide  riddled  with  balls. 

So,  my  gentle  gazelles,  thar's  my  answer, 

And  here  stays  Banty  Tim: 
He  trumped  Death's  ace  for  me  that  day, 

And  I'm  not  goin'  back  on  him' 
You  may  rezoloot  till  the  cows  come  home, 

But  ef  one  of  you  tetches  the  boy, 
He'll  wrastle  his  hash  tonight  in  hell, 

Or  my  name's  not  Tilmon  Joy! 


Bret  Harte 


FRANCIS  BRET  HARTE  was  born  August  25,  1839,  at  Albany,  New  York.  (In  cer- 
tain quarters  doubt  is  thrown  on  the  date  of  his  birth.  One  or  two  sources 
maintain  that  a  compositor,  upsetting  a  6,  made  the  "correct"  date,  1836,  "wrongly" 
1839.  However,  practically  all  the  encyclopedias  and  biographies  agree  upon  1839  as 
authentic.)  His  childhood  was  spent  in  various  cities  of  the  East.  Late  in  1853  his 
widowed  mother  went  to  California  with  a  party  of  relatives,  and  two  months  later, 
when  he  was  fifteen,  Bret  Harte  and  his  sister  followed.  During  the  next  few  years 
he  was  engaged  in  school-teaching,  typesetting,  politics,  mining  and  journalism, 
becoming  editor  of  The  Ovetland  Monthly  in  San  Francisco  in  1868. 

Harte's  fame  came  suddenly.  Late  in  the  Sixties  he  had  written  a  burlesque  in 
rhyme  of  two  Western  gamblers  trying  to  fleece  a  guileless  Chinaman  who  claimed 
to  know  nothing  about  cards,  but  who,  it  turned  out,  was  scarcely  as  innocent  as 


BRET  HARTE  95 

he  appeared.  Harte,  in  the  midst  of  writing  serious  poetry,  had  put  the  verses  aside 
as  too  crude  and  trifling  for  publication.  Some  time  later,  just  as  The  Overland 
Monthly  was  going  to  press,  it  was  discovered  that  the  form  was  one  page  short. 
Having  nothing  else  on  hand,  Harte  had  these  rhymes  set  up.  Instead  of  passing 
unnoticed,  the  poem  was  quoted  everywhere;  it  swept  the  West  and  captivated  the 
East.  When  The  Luc\  of  Roaring  Camp  followed,  Harte  became  not  only  a  national 
but  an  international  figure.  England  acclaimed  him  and  The  Atlantic  Monthly  paid 
him  $10,000  to  write  for  a  year  in  his  Pike  County  vein. 

East  and  West  Poems  appeared  in  1871;  in  1872  Harte  published  an  enlarged 
Poetical  Worlds  including  many  earlier  pieces.  His  scores  of  short  stories  represent 
Harte  at  his  best;  "M'liss,"  "Tennessee's  Partner,"  "The  Outcast  of  Poker  Flat"— 
these  are  the  work  of  a  lesser,  transplanted  Dickens.  His  novels  are  of  minor  im- 
portance; they  are  carelessly  constructed,  theatrically  conceived. 

His  serious  poetry  has  many  of  the  faults  of  his  prose.  A  melodramatic  crudeness 
alternates  with  an  equally  exaggerated  sentimentahsm;  even  those  verses  not  in 
dialect  (like  "What  the  Bullet  Sang")  suffer  from  defects  of  emphasis.  But  the 
occasional  verse  will  remain  to  delight  readers  who  rarely  glance  at  Harte's  other 
work  except  for  documentation. 

In  1872  Harte,  encouraged  by  his  success,  returned  to  his  native  East;  in  1878  he 
went  to  Germany  as  consul  at  Crefeld.  Two  years  later  he  was  transferred  to  Scot- 
land and,  after  five  years  there,  went  to  London,  where  he  remained  the  rest  of  his 
life.  Harte's  later  period  remains  mysteriously  shrouded.  He  never  came  back  to 
America,  not  even  for  a  visit;  he  ceased  to  correspond  with  his  family;  he  separated 
himself  from  all  the  most  intimate  associations  of  his  early  life.  He  died,  suddenly,  at 
Camberley,  England,  May  6,  1902. 

"JIM"  Well,  this  yer  Jim,— 

Did  you  know  him? 
Say  there'  Praps  jes»  >bout  your  S1ZC. 

Some  on  you  chaps  Same  kmd  of  eyes;__ 

Might  know  Jim  Wild?  Well,  that  is  strange: 

Well— no  offense:  Why,  lt>s  two  year 

Thar  ain't  no  sense  Smce  he  came  here> 

In  gittm'  riled!  Sickj  £or  a  change. 

Jim  was  my  chum  Well,  here's  to  us: 

Up  on  the  Bar:  Eh? 

That's  why  I  come  The  h you  say  I 

Down  from  up  yar,  Dead? 

Lookin'  for  Jim.  That  little  cuss? 
Thank  ye,  sir!  You 

Ain't  of  that  crew,—  What  makes  you  star', 

Blest  if  you  are!  You  over  thar? 

Can't  a  man  drop 

Money?  Not  much:  's  glass  in  yer  shop 

That  ain't  my  kind;  But  you  must  r'ar? 

I  ain't  no  such.  It  wouldn't  take 

Rum?  I  don't  mind,  D — d  much  to  break 

Seein'  it's  you.  You  and  your  bar. 


96 


Dead! 

Poor— little— Jim! 
Why,  thar  was  me, 
Jones,  and  Bob  Lee, 
Harry  and  Ben, — 
No-account  men: 
Then  to  take  him! 

Well,  thar-Good-by. 
No  more,  sir — I — 

Eh? 

What's  that  you  say? 
Why,  dern  it! — sho' — 
No?  Yes'  By  Joe! 

Sold! 

Sold!  Why,  you  limb. 
You  ornery, 

Derned,  old, 
Long-legged  Jim. 


PLAIN  LANGUAGE  FROM 
TRUTHFUL  JAMES 

(Table  Mountain,  iSjo) 

Which  I  wish  to  remark, 

And  my  language  is  plain, 
That  for  ways  that  are  dark 

And  for  tricks  that  are  vain, 
The  heathen  Chinee  is  peculiar, 

Which  the  same  I  would  rise  to  explain. 

Ah  Sin  was  his  name; 

And  I  shall  not  deny, 
In  regard  to  the  same, 

What  that  name  might  imply; 
But  his  smile  it  was  pensive  and  childlike, 

As  I  frequent  remarked  to  Bill  Nye. 

It  was  August  the  third, 

And  quite  soft  was  the  skies; 
Which  it  might  be  inferred 

That  Ah  Sin  was  likewise; 
Yet  he  played  it  that  day  upon  William 

And  me  in  a  way  I  despise. 

Which  we  had  a  small  game, 

And  Ah  Sin  took  a  hand: 
It  was  Euchre.  The  same 

He  did  not  understand; 
But  he  smiled  as  he  sat  by  the  table, 

With  a  smile  that  was  childlike  and  bland. 


BRET  HARTE 

Yet  the  cards  they  were  stocked 

In  a  way  that  I  grieve, 
And  my  feelings  were  shocked 

At  the  state  of  Nye's  sleeve, 
Which  was  stuffed  full  of  aces  and  bowers, 

And  the  same  with  intent  to  deceive. 

But  the  hands  that  were  played 

By  that  heathen  Chinee, 
And  the  points  that  he  made, 

Were  quite  frightful  to  see, — 
Till  at  last  he  put  down  a  right  bower, 

Which  the  same  Nye  had  dealt  unto  me! 

Then  I  looked  up  at  Nye, 

And  he  gazed  upon  me; 
And  he  rose  with  a  sigh, 

And  said,  "Can  this  be? 
We  arc  ruined  by  Chinese  cheap  labor," — 

And  he  went  for  that  heathen  Chinee. 

In  the  scene  that  ensued 

I  did  not  take  a  hand, 
But  the  floor  it  was  strewed 

Like  the  leaves  on  the  strand 
With  the  cards  that  Ah  Sin  had  been  hiding, 

In  the  game  "he  did  not  understand." 

In  his  sleeves,  which  were  long, 

He  has  twenty-four  packs, — 
Which  was  coming  it  strong, 

Yet  I  state  but  the  facts; 
And  we  found  on  his  nails,  which  were  taper, 

What  is  frequent  in  tapers, — that's  wax. 

Which  is  why  I  remark, 

And  my  language  is  plain, 
That  for  ways  that  are  dark 

And  for  tricks  that  are  vain, 
The  heathen  Chinee  is  peculiar, — 

Which  the  same  I  am  free  to  maintain. 


WHAT    THE    BULLET   SANG 

O  joy  of  creation, 
To  be! 

0  rapture,  to  fly 
And  be  free! 

Be  the  battle  lost  or  won, 

Though  the  smoke  shall  hide  the  sun, 

1  shall  find  my  love,  the  one 
Born  for  me! 


BRET  HARTE 

I  shall  know  him  where  he  stands 

All  alone, 
With  the  power  in  his  hands 

Not  o'crthrown; 
I  shall  know  him  hy  his  face, 
By  his  godlike  front  and  grace; 
I  shall  hold  him  for  a  space 

All  my  own! 

It  is  he — O  my  love! 

So  bold! 
It  is  I — all  thy  love 

Foretold' 

It  is  I — O  love,  what  bliss' 
Dost  thou  answer  to  my  kiss? 
O  sweetheart'  what  is  this 

Lieth  there  so  cold? 


THE    AGED    STRANGER 
(An  Incident  of  the  Civil  Wat) 

"I  was  with  Grant" — the  stranger  said; 

Said  the  farmer,  "Say  no  more, 
But  rest  thcc  here  at  my  cottage  porch, 

For  thy  feet  are  weary  and  sore." 

"I  was  with  Grant"-— the  stranger  said; 
Said  the  farmer,  "Nay,  no  more. 


97 

I  prithee  sit  at  my  frugal  board, 
And  eat  ot  my  humble  store. 

"How  fares  my  boy, — my  soldier  boy, 

Of  the  old  Ninth  Army  Corps? 
I  warrant  he  bore  him  gallantly 

In  the  smoke  and  the  battle's  roar!" 

"I  know  him  not,"  said  the  aged  man, 

"And,  as  I  remarked  before, 
I  was  with  Grant" — "Nay,  nay,  I  know," 

Said  the  farmer,  "say  no  more. 

"He  fell  in  battle, — I  sec,  alas' 
Thou'dst  smooth  these  tidings  o'er. 

Nay,  speak  the  truth,  whatever  it  be, 
Though  it  icnd  my  bosom's  core." 

"I  cannot  tell,"  said  the  aged  man, 
"And  should  have  remarked  before, 

That  I  was  with  Grant, — in  Illinois, — 
Three  years  before  the  war." 

Then  the  farmer  spake  him  never  a  word, 

But  beat  with  his  fist  full  sore 
That  aged  man,  who  had  worked  for  Grant 

Three  years  before  the  war. 


Joaquin  Miller 


JOAQUIN  MILLER  was,  as  he  desired  to  be,  a  mysterious  figure.  The  date  of  his  birth 
is  conjectural;  even  his  name  is  a  matter  of  doubt.  However,  from  recent  evi- 
dence— particularly  the  researches  of  Frank  R.  Readc — it  seems  safe  to  say  that  his 
name  was  originally  Cincmnatus  Hmcr  Miller:  Cmcmnatus,  according  to  his  brother, 
"for  a  certain  Roman  General  (')  and  mother  named  him  Hiner  for  Dr.  Hiner, 
who  brought  him  into  the  world."  Although  Joaquin  Miller  claimed  that  his  middle 
name  was  "Heine"  and  that  his  mother  named  him  Heine  because  of  her  love  for 
the  German  poet,  there  is  proof  that  Miller  adopted  the  Heine  after  he  had  heard 
of  the  author  of  Buck  der  Lieder.  The  date  of  his  birth  is  also  disputed.  March  tenth 
seems  to  be  the  favored  day  assigned  to  his  entry  into  the  world  and,  although  1839 
has  been  advanced  as  the  latest  "definite"  date,  most  biographers  choose  1841  as  the 
year  in  which  Miller  was  born. 

A  few  facts  are  indisputable.  Miller  was  of  mixed  Dutch  anc!  Scotch  stock,  his 
father's  father  having  been  killed  at  Fort  Meigs  in  the  War  of  1812.  As  Miller 
himself  wrote  (and  this  particular  bit  of  biography  has  stood  the  scrutiny  of  his  more 


98  JOAQUIN  MILLER 

exact  commentators),  "My  cradle  was  a  covered  wagon,  pointed  west.  I  was  born  in 
a  covered  wagon,  I  am  told,  at  or  about  the  time  it  crossed  the  line  dividing  Indiana 
from  Ohio."  When  Miller  was  twelve,  his  family  left  the  mid- West  with  "two  big 
heavily  laden  wagons,  with  eight  yoke  of  oxen  to  each,  a  carriage  and  two  horses 
for  mother  and  baby  sister,  and  a  single  horse  for  the  three  boys  to  ride."  The  dis- 
tance covered  in  their  cross-country  exodus  (they  took  a  roundabout  route  to  Oregon) 
was  nearly  three  thousand  miles  and  the  time  consumed  was  more  than  seven 
months. 

At  fifteen  we  find  Miller  living  with  the  Indians  as  one  of  them;  in  1859  (at  the 
age  of  eighteen)  he  attends  a  mission-school  "college"  in  Eugene,  Oregon;  between 
1860  and  1865  he  is  express-messenger,  editor  of  a  pacifist  newspaper  that  is  sup- 
pressed for  opposing  the  Civil  War,  lawyer  and,  occasionally,  a  poet.  He  holds  a 
minor  judgeship  from  1866  to  1870. 

His  first  book  (Specimens)  appears  in  1868,  his  second  (Joaquin  et  al.t  from 
which  he  took  his  name)  in  1869.  No  response — not  even  from  "the  bards  of  San 
Francisco  Bay"  to  whom  he  had  dedicated  the  latter  volume.  He  is  chagrined,  dis- 
couraged, angry.  He  resolves  to  quit  America,  to  go  to  the  land  that  has  always 
been  the  nursing-ground  of  poets.  "Three  months  later,  September  i,  1870,  I  was 
kneeling  at  the  grave  of  Burns.  I  really  expected  to  die  there  in  the  land  of  my 
fathers."  He  arrives  in  London,  unheralded,  unknown.  He  takes  his  manuscripts  to 
one  publisher  after  another  with  the  same  negative  result.  Finally,  with  a  pioneer 
desperation,  he  prints  privately  one  hundred  copies  of  his  Pacific  Poems,  sending 
them  out  for  review.  The  result  is  a  sensation;  the  reversal  of  Miller's  fortunes  is 
one  of  the  most  startling  in  all  literature.  The  reviews  are  a  series  of  superlatives, 
the  personal  tributes  still  more  fervid.  Miller  becomes  famous  overnight.  He  is 
feted,  lauded,  lionized;  he  is  ranked  as  an  equal  of  Browning,  given  a  dinner  by 
the  Pre-Raphaclites,  acclaimed  as  "the  great  interpreter  of  America,"  "the  Byron 
of  Oregon!" 

His  dramatic  success  in  England  is  easily  explained.  He  brought  to  the  calm  air  of 
literary  London  a  breath  of  the  great  winds  of  the  plain.  The  more  he  exaggerated 
his  crashing  effects,  the  louder  he  roared,  the  better  the  English  public  liked  it. 
When  he  entered  Victorian  parlors  in  his  velvet  jacket,  hip-boots  and  flowing  hair, 
childhood  visions  of  the  "wild  and  woolly  Westerner"  were  realized  and  the  very 
bombast  of  his  work  was  glorified  as  "typically  American." 

And  yet,  for  all  his  overstressed  muscularity,  Miller  is  strangely  lacking  in  creative 
energy.  His  whipped-up  rhetoric  cannot  disguise  the  essential  weakness  of  his  verse. 
It  is,  in  spite  of  a  certain  breezmess  and  a  few  magnificent  descriptions  of  canons  and 
mountain-chains,  feeble,  full  of  cheap  heroics,  atrocious  taste,  impossible  men  and 
women.  One  or  two  individual  poems,  like  "Crossing  the  Plains,"  "The  Yukon," 
and  parts  of  his  apostrophes  to  the  Sierras,  the  Pacific  Ocean  and  the  Missouri  River 
may  live;  the  rest  seem  doomed  to  extinction. 

From  1872  to  1876  Miller  traveled  in  Europe  and  the  Holy  Land,  and,  although 
he  speaks  of  being  in  Egypt  in  1879,  there  is  good  ground  for  believing  this  to  be 
another  romantic  exaggeration.  At  all  events,  he  built  a  log  cabin  in  Washington  in 
1883,  after  spending  some  time  in  Boston  and  New  York.  After  being  married  for 
the  third  time,  he  returned  to  California  in  1885.  In  1886  he  bought  "The  Hights" 


JOAQUIN  MILLER 


99 


and  tried  to  found  an  experimental  Greek  Academy  tor  aspiring  writers.  Me  died 
there,  after  a  determinedly  picturesque  life,  m  sight  of  the  Golden  Gate  in  1913. 


BY    THE    PACIFIC    OCEAN 

Here  room  and  kingly  silence  keep 
Companionship  in  state  austere; 
The  dignity  of  death  is  here, 
The  large,  lone  vastness  of  the  deep. 
Here  toil  has  pitched  his  camp  to  rest: 
The  west  is  banked  against  the  west. 

Above  yon  gleaming  skies  of  gold 
One  lone  imperial  peak  is  seen; 
While  gathered  at  his  feet  in  green 
Ten  thousand  foresters  arc  told. 
And  all  so  still'  so  still  the  air 
That  duty  drops  the  web  of  care. 

Beneath  the  sunset's  golden  sheaves 

The  awful  deep  walks  with  the  deep, 

Where  silent  sea-doves  slip  and  sweep, 

And  commerce  keeps  her  loom  and  weaves. 

The  dead  red  men  refuse  to  rest; 

Their  ghosts  illume  my  lurid  West. 


>   CROSSING    THE    PLAINS 

What  great  yoked  brutes  with  briskets  low, 
With  wrinkled  necks  like  buffalo, 
With  round,  brown,  liquid,  pleading  eyes, 
That  turn'd  so  slow  and  sad  to  you. 
That  shone  like  love's  eyes  soft  with  tears, 
That  secm'd  to  plead,  and  make  replies, 
The  while  they  bow'd  their  necks  and  drew 
The  creaking  load;  and  looked  at  you. 
Their  sable  briskets  swept  the  ground, 
Their  cloven  feet  kept  solemn  sound. 

Two  sullen  bullocks  led  the  line, 
Their  great  eyes  shining  bright  like  wine; 
Two  sullen  captive  kings  were  they, 
That  had  in  time  held  herds  at  bay, 
And  even  now  they  crush'd  the  sod 
With  stolid  sense  of  majesty, 
And  stately  stepp'd  and  stately  trod, 
As  if  'twere  something  still  to  be 
Kings  even  in  captivity. 


FROM       BYRON 

In  men  whom  men  condemn  as  ill 

I  find  so  much  of  goodness  still, 

In  men  whom  men  pronounce  divine 

I  find  so  much  oh  sin  and  blot, 

I  do  not  dare  to  draw  a  line 

Between  the  two,  where  God  has  not. 


THE    ARCTIC    MOON 

(pom  "The  Yu{on") 

The  moon  resumed  all  heaven  now, 

She  shepherded  the  stars  below 

Along  her  wide,  white  sleeps  of  snow, 

Nor  stooped  nor  rested,  where  or  how. 

She  bared  her  full  white  breast,  she  dared 

The  sun  to  show  his  face  again. 

She  seemed  to  know  no  change,  she  kept 

Carousal  constantly,  nor  slept, 

Nor  turned  aside  a  breath,  nor  spared 

The  fear! ul  meaning,  the  mad  pain, 

The  weary  eyes,  the  poor  dazed  brain, 

That  came  at  last  to  feel,  to  see 

The  dread,  dead  touch  of  lunacy. 

How  loud  the  bilcnce'  Oh,  how  loud! 
How  more  than  beautiful  the  shroud 
Of  dead  Light  in  the  moon-mad  north 
When  great  torch-tipping  stars  stand  forth 
Above  the  black,  slow-moving  pall 
As  at  some  fearful  funeral' 

The  moon  blares  as  mad  trumpets  blare 
To  marshaled  warriors  long  and  loud; 
The  cobalt  blue  knows  not  a  cloud, 
But,  oh,  beware  that  moon,  beware 
Her  ghostly,  graveyard,  moon-mad  stare  I 
Beware  white  silence  more  than  white! 
Beware  the  five-horned  starry  rune; 
Beware  the  groaning  gorge  below; 
Beware  the  wide,  white  world  of  snow, 
Where  trees  hang  white  as  hooded  nun — 
No  thing  not  white,  not  one,  not  one! 
But  most  beware  that  mad  white  moon. 


ioo  EDWARD  ROWLAND  SILL 


Edward  Rowland  Sill 

EDWARD  ROWLAND  SILL  was  born  at  Windsor,  Connecticut,  in  1841.  In  1861  he  was 
graduated  from  Yale  and  shortly  thereafter  his  poor  health  compelled  him  to 
go  West.  After  various  unsuccessful  experiments,  he  drifted  into  teaching,  first  in 
the  high  schools  in  Ohio,  later  in  the  English  department  of  the  University  of  Cali- 
fornia. His  uncertain  physical  condition  added  to  his  mental  insecurity.  Unable  to 
ally  himself  either  with  the  conservative  forces  whom  he  hated  or  with  the  radicals 
whom  he  distrusted,  Sill  became  an  uncomfortable  solitary;  half  rebellious,  half 
resigned.  During  the  last  decade  of  his  life,  his  brooding  seriousness  was  less  pro- 
nounced, a  lighter  irony  took  the  place  of  dark  reflections.  Although  Sill  remains 
among  the  minor  poets  both  in  scope  and  style,  a  few  of  his  poems  (such  as  "The 
Fool's  Prayer"  and  "Opportunity")  have  established  themselves  securely. 

The  Ho  milage,  his  first  volume,  was  published  in  1867,  a  later  edition  (including 
later  poems)  appearing  in  1889.  His  two  posthumous  books  are  Poems  (1887)  and 
Hermione  and  Other  Poems  (1899).  A  volume  of  his  prose  "essays  in  literature  and 
education"  was  published  in  1900.  His  later  and  little  known  work  deserved — and 
deserves — a  wider  audience.  It  established  a  serenity  that  was  not  without  flashes 
of  spirit,  a  gravity  compounded  with  quiet  wit. 

Sill  died,  after  bringing  something  of  the  Eastern  culture  and  "finish"  to  the 
West,  in  1887. 

OPPORTUNITY 

This  I  beheld,  or  dreamed  it  in  a  dream: — 
There  spread  a  cloud  of  dust  along  a  plain; 
And  underneath  the  cloud,  or  in  it,  raged 
A  furious  battle,  and  men  yelled,  and  swords 
Shocked  upon  swords  and  shields.  A  prince's  banner 
Wavered,  then  staggered  backward,  hemmed  by  foes. 
A  craven  hung  along  the  battle's  edge, 
And  thought,  "Had  I  a  sword  of  keener  steel — 
That  blue  blade  that  the  king's  son  bears, — but  this 
Blunt  thing — !"  he  snapt,  and  flung  it  from  his  hand, 
And  lowering  crept  away  and  left  the  field. 
Then  came  the  king's  son,  wounded,  sore  bestead, 
And  weaponless,  and  saw  the  broken  sword, 
Hilt-buried  in  the  dry  and  trodden  sand, 
And  ran  and  snatched  it,  and  with  battle-shout 
Lifted  afresh  he  hewed  his  enemy  down, 
And  saved  a  great  cause  that  heroic  day. 


THE    FOOL    S    PRAYER 

The  royal  feast  was  done;  the  King 
Sought  some  new  sport  to  banish  care, 

And  to  his  jester  cried:  "Sir  Fool, 

Kneel  now,  and  make  for  us  a  prayer  1" 


EDWARD  ROWLAND  SILL  I0f 

The  jester  doffed  his  cap  and  bells, 

And  stood  the  mocking  court  before; 
They  could  not  see  the  bitter  smile 

Behind  the  painted  grin  he  wore. 

He  bowed  his  head,  and  bent  his  knee 

Upon  the  monarch's  silken  stool; 
His  pleading  voice  arose:  "O  Lord, 

Be  merciful  to  me,  a  fool' 

"  'Tis  not  by  guilt  the  onward  sweep 

Of  truth  and  right,  O  Lord,  we  stay; 
JTis  by  our  follies  that  so  long 

We  hold  the  earth  from  heaven  away. 

"These  clumsy  feet,  still  in  the  mire, 

Go  crushing  blossoms  without  end; 
These  hard,  well-meaning  hands  we  thrust 

Among  the  heart-strings  of  a  friend. 

''The  ill-timed  truth  we  might  have  kept — 
Who    knows   how    sharp    it    pierced   and    stung? 

The  word  we  had  not  sense  to  say — 
Who  knows  how  grandly  it  had  rung? 

"Our  faults  no  tenderness  should  ask, 

The  chastening  stripes  must  cleanse  them  all; 

But  for  our  blunders — oh,  in  shame 
Before  the  eyes  of  heaven  we  fall. 

"Earth  bears  no  balsam  for  mistakes; 

Men   crown   the  knave,   and   scourge   the  tool 
That  did  his  will;  but  Thou,  O  Lord, 

Be  merciful  to  me,  a  fool!" 

The  room  was  hushed;  in  silence  rose 

The  King,  and  sought  his  gardens  cool, 
And  walked  apart,  and  murmured  low, 

"Be  merciful  to  me,  a  fool!" 


Sidney  Lamer 

LANIER  was  born  at  Macon,  Georgia,  February  3,  1842.  His  was  a  family 
O  of  musicians  (Lamer  himself  was  a  skillful  performer  on  various  instruments), 
and  it  is  not  surprising  that  his  verse  emphasizes — even  overstresses — the  influence 
of  music  on  poetry.  He  attended  Oglcthorpe  College,  graduating  at  the  age  of  eight- 
een (1860),  and,  a  year  later,  volunteered  as  a  private  in  the  Confederate  army.  After 
several  months'  imprisonment  (he  had  been  captured  while  acting  as  signal  officer 


702  SIDNEY  LANIER 

on  a  blockade-runner),  Lanier  was  released  in  February,  1865,  returning  from  Point 
Lookout  to  Georgia  on  foot,  accompanied  only  by  his  flute.  His  physical  health, 
never  the  most  robust,  had  been  further  impaired  by  his  incarceration,  and  he  was 
already  suffering  from  tuberculosis.  The  rest  of  his  life  was  spent  in  an  unequal 
struggle  against  it. 

He  was  now  only  twenty-three  years  old  and  the  problem  of  choosing  a  vocation 
was  complicated  by  his  marriage  in  1867.  He  spent  five  years  in  the  study  and 
practice  of  law,  during  which  time  he  wrote  comparatively  little  verse.  But  the  law 
could  not  hold  him;  he  felt  premonitions  of  death  and  realized  he  must  devote  his 
talents  to  art  before  it  was  too  late.  He  was  fortunate  enough  to  obtain  a  position 
as  flautist  with  the  Peabody  Symphony  Orchestra  in  1873  in  Baltimore,  where  he 
had  free  access  to  the  music  and  literature  he  craved.  Here  he  wrote  all  his  best 
poetry.  In  1879,  he  was  made  lecturer  on  English  in  Johns  Hopkins  University,  and 
it  was  for  his  courses  there  that  he  wrote  his  chief  prose  work,  a  brilliant  if  incon- 
clusive study,  The  Science  of  English  Verse.  Besides  his  poetry,  he  wrote  several 
books  for  boys,  the  two  most  popular  being  The  Boys'  Froissart  (1878)  and  The 
Boys  King  Arthur  (1880). 

Lamer's  poetry  suffers  from  his  all  too  frequent  theorizing,  his  too-conscious  ef- 
fort to  bring  verse  over  into  the  province  of  pure  music.  He  thought  almost  en- 
tirely in  terms  of  musical  form.  His  main  theory  that  English  verse  has  for  its  es- 
sential basis  not  accent  but  a  strict  musical  quantity  is  a  wholly  erroneous  conclu- 
sion, possible  only  to  one  who  could  write  "whatever  turn  I  have  for  art  is  purely 
musical — poetry  being  with  me  a  mere  tangent  into  which  I  shoot."  Lanier  is  at 
his  best  in  his  ballads,  although  a  few  of  his  lyrics  have  a  similar  spontaneity.  In 
spite  of  novel  schemes  of  rhythm  and  stanza-structure,  much  of  his  work  is  marred 
by  strained  effects,  literary  conceits  (especially  his  use  of  pseudo-Shakespearean 
images)  and  a  kind  of  verse  that  approaches  mere  pattern-making.  But  such  a  ballad 
as  the  "Song  of  the  Chattahoochce,"  lyrics  like  "Night  and  Day,"  and  parts  of  the 
symphonic  "Hymns  of  the  Marshes"  have  won  a  place  in  American  literature.  His 
triumphs  over  the  exigencies  of  disease  and  his  accomplishments  in  two  arts  were 
the  result  of  undefeated  spirit,  a  bravery  that  dazzled  his  commentators,  who  con- 
fused the  attainments  of  courage  with  those  of  creation. 

A  comprehensive  collection  of  Lamer's  verse  was  first  issued  in  1906:  Collected 
Poems  of  Sidney  Lamer,  edited  by  his  wife,  with  a  memorial  by  William  Hayes 
Ward.  It  includes  not  only  the  poet's  well-known  musical  experiments,  but  the  rarely 
printed  dialect  verses  and  all  that  remains  of  "The  Jacquerie." 

Lanier  died,  a  victim  of  his  disease,  in  the  mountains  of  North  Carolina,  Septem- 
ber 7,  1881. 

SONG   OF   THE   CHATTAHOOCHEE        With  a  lover's  pain  to  attain  the  plain 

^        riin      /•  TT  i      L  Far  fr°m  the  hills  of  Habersham, 

Out  of  the  h,  Is  of  Habersham,  Faf  from  ^  yall       Q£  ^ 

Down  the  valleys  of  Hall,  ' 

I  hurry  amain  to  reach  the  plain,  All  down  the  hills  of  Habersham, 

Run  the  rapid  and  leap  the  fall,  All  through  the  valleys  of  Hall, 

Split  at  the  rock  and  together  again,  The  rushes  cried  Abide,  abide, 

Accept  my  bed,  or  narrow  or  wide,  The  willful  waterweeds  held  me  thrall, 

And  flee  from  folly  on  every  side  The  laving  laurel  turned  my  tide, 


SIDNEY  LANIER 

The  ferns  and  the  fondling  grass  said  Stay, 
The  dewberry  dipped  for  to  work  delay, 
And  the  little  reeds  sighed  Abide,  abide, 

Here  in  the  hills  of  Habersham, 

Here  in  the  valleys  of  Hall. 

High  o'er  the  hills  of  Habersham, 

Veiling  the  valleys  of  Hall, 
The  hickory  told  me  manifold 
Fair  tales  of  shade,  the  poplar  tall 
Wrought  me  her  shadowy  self  to  hold, 
The  chestnut,  the  oak,  the  walnut,  the  pine, 
Overleaning,  with  flickering  meaning  and 

sign, 
Said,  Pass  not,  so  cold,  these  manifold 

Deep  shades  of  the  hills  of  Habersham, 

These  glades  in  the  valleys  of  Hall. 

And  oft  in  the  hills  of  Habersham, 

And  oft  in  the  valleys  of  Hall, 
The  white  quartz  shone,  and  the  smooth 

brook-stone 

Did  bar  me  of  passage  with  friendly  brawl, 
And  many  a  luminous  jewel  lone 
— Crystals  clear  or  acloud  with  mist, 
Ruby,  garnet  and  amethyst — 
Made  lures  with  the  lights  of  streaming  stone 

In  the  clefts  of  the  hills  of  Habersham, 

In  the  beds  of  the  valleys  of  Hall. 

But  oh,  not  the  hills  of  Habersham, 
And  oh,  not  the  valleys  of  Hall 


103 

Avail:  I  am  fain  for  to  water  the  plain. 
Downward  the  voices  of  Duty  call — 
Downward,  to  toil  and  be  mixed  with  the 

main, 
The  dry  fields  burn,  and  the  mills  are  to 

turn, 

And  a  myriad  flowers  mortally  yearn, 
And  the  lordly  mam  from  beyond  the  plain 
Calls  o'er  the  hills  of  Habersham, 
Calls  through  the  valleys  of  Hall. 

NIGHT    AND    DAY 

The  innocent,  sweet  Day  is  dead. 
Dark  Night  hath  slain  her  in  her  bed. 
O,  Moors  are  as  fierce  to  kill  as  to  wed! 
— Put  out  the  light,  said  he. 

A  sweeter  light  than  ever  rayed 
From  star  of  heaven  or  eye  of  maid 
Has  vanished  in  the  unknown  Shade 
— She's  dead,  she's  dead,  said  he. 

Now,  in  a  wild,  sad  after-mood 
The  tawny  Ntght  sits  still  to  brood 
Upon  the  dawn-time  when  he  wooed 
— I  would  she  lived,  said  he. 

Star-memories  of  happier  times, 
Of  loving  deeds  and  lovers'  rhymes, 
Throng  forth  in  silvery  pantomimes. 
— Come  back,  O  Day'  said  he. 


FROM        THE    MARSHES    OF    GLYNN 

Inward  and  outward  to  northward  and  southward  the  beach-lines  linger  and  curl 

As  a  silver-wrought  garment  clings  to  and  follows  the  firm  sweet  limbs  of  a  girl, 

Vanishing,  swerving,  evermore  curving  again  into  sight, 

Softly  the  sand-beach  wavers  away  to  a  dim  gray  looping  of  light. 

And  what  if  behind  me  to  westward  the  wall  of  the  woods  stands  high? 

The  world  lies  east:  how  ample,  the  marsh  and  the  sea  and  the  sky! 

A  league  and  a  league  of  marsh-grass,  waist-high,  broad  in  the  blade, 
Green,  and  all  of  a  height,  and  unflecked  with  a  light  or  a  shade, 
Stretch  leisurely  off,  in  a  pleasant  plain, 
To  the  terminal  blue  of  the  main. 


Ye  marshes,  how  candid  and  simple  and  nothing-withholding  and  free 
Ye  publish  yourselves  to  the  sky  and  offer  yourselves  to  the  sea! 
Tolerant  plains,  that  suffer  the  sea  and  the  rams  and  the  sun, 
Ye  spread  and  span  like  the  catholic  man  who  hath  mightily  woo 


T04  SIDNEY  LAN1ER 

God  out  of  knowledge  and  good  out  of  infinite  pain 
And  sight  out  of  blindness  and  purity  out  of  a  stain. 

As  the  marsh-hen  secretly  builds  on  the  watery  sod, 

Behold  I  will  build  me  a  nest  on  the  greatness  of  God: 

I  will  fly  in  the  greatness  of  God  as  the  marsh-hen  flies 

In  the  freedom  that  fills  all  the  space  'twixt  the  marsh  and  the  skies: 

By  so  many  roots  as  the  marsh-grass  sends  in  the  sod 

I  will  heartily  lay  me  a-hold  on  the  greatness  of  God: 

Oh,  like  to  the  greatness  of  God  is  the  greatness  within 

The  range  of  the  marshes,  the  liberal  marshes  of  Glynn. 

And  the  sea  lends  large,  as  the  marsh:  lo,  out  of  his  plenty  the  sea 
Pours  fast:  full  soon  the  time  of  the  flood-tide  must  be: 
Look  how  the  grace  of  the  sea  doth  go 
About  and  about  through  the  intricate  channels  that  flow 
Here  and  there, 

Everywhere, 

Till  his  waters  have  flooded  the  uttermost  creeks  and  the  low-lying  lanes, 
And  the  marsh  isjneshed  with  a  million  veins, 
That  like  as  with  rosy  and  silvery  essences  flow 
In  the  rose-and-silver  evening  glow. 

Farewell,  my  lord  Sun! 
The  creeks  overflow:  a  thousand  rivulets  run 
'Twixt  the  roots  of  the  sod;  the  blades  of  the  marsh-grass  stir; 
Passeth  a  hurrying  sound  of  wings  that  westward  whirr; 
Passeth,  and  all  is  still;  and  the  currents  cease  to  run; 
And  the  sea  and  the  marsh  are  one. 
How  still  the  plains  of  the  waters  be! 
The  tide  in  his  ecstasy. 
The  tide  is  at  his  highest  height: 

And  it  is  night. 

And  now  from  the  Vast  of  the  Lord  will  the  waters  of  sleep 

Roll  in  on  the  souls  of  men, 

But  who  will  reveal  to  our  waking  ken 

The  forms  that  swim  and  the  shapes  that  creep 

Under  the  waters  of  sleep? 

And  I  would  I  could  know  what  swimmeth  below  when  the  tide  comes  in 
On  the  length  and  breadth  of  the  marvelous  marshes  of  Glynn. 

SONG  FOR  "THE  JACQUERIE" 

The  hound  was  cuffed,  the  hound  was  kicked, 
O'  the  ears  was  cropped,  o*  the  tail  was  nicked, 
(AH.)  Oo-hoo-o,  howled  the  hound. 

The  hound  into  his  kennel  crept; 
He  rarely  wept,  he  never  slept. 
His  mouth  he  always  open  kept 
Licking  his  bitter  wound, 

The  hound, 
(All.)  U-lu-lo,  howled  the  hound. 


SIDNEY  LAN1ER  105 

A  star  upon  his  kennel  shone 
That  showed  the  hound  a  meat-bare  bone. 
(All.)  O  hungry  was  the  hound' 

The  hound  had  but  a  churlish  wit. 
He  seized  the  bone,  he  crunched,  he  bit. 
"An  thou  wert  Master,  I  had  slit 

Thy  throat  with  a  huge  wound," 

Quo*  hound. 
(All.)  O,  angry  was  the  hound. 

The  star  in  castle-window  shone, 
The  Master  lay  abed,  alone. 
(All.)  Oh  ho,  why  not?  quo'  hound. 

He  leapt,  he  seized  the  throat,  he  tore 
The  Master,  head  from  neck,  to  floor, 
And  rolled  the  head  i*  the  kennel  door, 
And  fled  and  salved  his  wound, 

Good  hound! 
(All.)  U-lu-lo,  howled  the  hound. 


A    BALLAD    OF    THE    TREES    AND    THE    MASTER 

Into  the  woods  my  Master  went, 

Clean  forspent,  forspent. 

Into  the  woods  my  Master  came, 

Forspent  with  love  and  shame. 

But  the  olives  they  were  not  blind  to  Him, 

The  little  gray  leaves  were  kind  to  Him: 

The  thorn-tree  had  a  mind  to  Him 

When  into  the  woods  He  came. 

Out  of  the  woods  my  Master  went, 

And  He  was  well  content. 

Out  of  the  woods  my  Master  came, 

Content  with  death  and  shame. 

When  Death  and  Shame  would  woo  Him  last, 

From  under  the  trees  they  drew  Him  last: 

'Twas  on  a  tree  they  slew  Him — last 

When  out  of  the  woods  He  came. 


James  Whitcomb  Rilcy 

JAMES  WHITCOMB  RiLEY,  possibly  the  most  widely  read  native  poet  of  his  day,  was 
born  October  7,  1849,  in  Greenfield,  Indiana,  a  small  town  twenty  miles  from 
Indianapolis,  where  he  spent  his  later  years.  Contrary  to  popular  belief,  Riley  was 
not,  as  many  have  gathered  from  his  bucolic  poems,  a  struggling  child  of  the  soil; 
his  father  was  a  lawyer  in  comfortable  circumstances,  and  Riley  was  given  not  only 
a  good  education,  but  was  prepared  for  the  law.  His  temperament,  however,  craved 


Io6  JAMES   WHITCOMB  RILEY 

something  more  adventurous.  At  eighteen  he  shut  the  pages  of  Blackstone,  slipped 
out  of  the  office  and  joined  a  traveling  troupe  of  actors  who  sold  patent  medicines 
during  the  intermissions.  Riley's  functions  were  varied:  he  beat  the  bass-drum, 
painted  their  flaring  banners,  wrote  local  versions  of  old  songs,  coached  the  actors 
and,  when  occasion  arose,  took  part  in  the  performance  himself. 

Even  before  this  time,  Riley  had  begun  to  send  verses  to  the  newspapers,  young 
experiments,  bits  of  homely  sentiment,  simple  snatches  and  elaborate  hoaxes — the 
poem  "Leonainie,"  published  over  the  initials  "E.  A.  P.,"  being  accepted  in  many 
quarters  as  a  newly  discovered  poem  by  Poe.  In  1882,  when  he  was  on  the  staff  of 
the  Indianapolis  Journal,  he  began  printing  the  series  ot  dialect  poems  which  he 
claimed  were  by  a  rude  and  unlettered  farmer,  one  "Benj.  F.  Johnson,  of  Boone, 
the  Hoosier  poet."  A  collection  of  these  rustic  verses  appeared,  in  1883,  as  The  Ole 
Swimmin'  Hole,  and  Riley  leaped  into  widespread  popularity. 

Other  collections  followed  rapidly:  Ajterwhiles  (1887),  Old-Fashioned  Roses 
(1888),  Pipes  o'  Pan  at  Ze^esbwy  (1889),  Rhymes  of  Childhood  (1890).  All  met 
an  instant  response;  Riley  endeared  himself,  by  his  homely  idiom  and  his  ingenuity, 
to  a  countryful  of  readers,  adolescent  and  adult. 

But  Riley 's  simplicity  is  seldom  as  artless  as  it  seems.  Time  and  again,  one  can 
watch  him  trading  wantonly  on  the  emotions  of  his  unsophisticated  readers.  He  sees 
them  about  to  smile — and  broadens  the  point  of  his  joke;  he  observes  them  on  the 
point  of  tears — and  pulls  out  the  sobbing  tremolo  stop.  In  many  respects  he  is  pat- 
ently the  most  artificial  of  those  poets  who  claim  to  give  us  the  stuff  of  the  soil.  He  is 
the  poet  of  obtrusive  sentiment  rather  than  of  quiet  convictions,  the  poet  of  lulling 
assurance,  of  philosophies  that  never  disturb  his  readers,  of  sweet  truisms  rather 
than  searching  truths.  His  influence  has  given  rise  to  an  entire  school  of  "cheerful 
philosophy"  versifiers;  its  lowest  ebb  may  be  seen  in  the  newspaper  columns  of  the 
"A  Smile  a  Day"  variety  and  the  syndicated  syrup  of  Edgar  A.  Guest. 

That  work  of  his  which  may  endure  will  survive  because  of  the  personal  flavor 
that  Riley  often  gave  it.  Such  poems  as  "When  the  Frost  Is  on  the  Punkm,"  and 
"The  Raggedy  Man,"  seem  part  of  American  folk-literature;  "Little  Orphant  Annie" 
was  read  wherever  there  was  a  schoolhouse  or,  for  that  matter,  a  nursery. 

Riley  died  in  his  little  house  in  Lockerbie  Street,  Indianapolis,  July  22,  1916. 

WHEN    THE    FROST    IS    ON    THE    PUNKIN 

When  the  frost  is  on  the  punkm  and  the  fodder's  in  the  shock, 

And  you  hear  the  kyouck  and  gobble  of  the  struttin'  turkey-cock, 

And  the  clackm*  of  the  guineys,  and  the  cluckin'  of  the  hens, 

And  the  rooster's  hallylooyer  as  he  tiptoes  on  the  fence; 

O,  it's  then  the  time  a  feller  is  a-feclin*  at  his  best, 

With  the  nsin'  sun  to  greet  him  from  a  night  of  peaceful  rest, 

As  he  leaves  the  house,  bareheaded,  and  goes  out  to  feed  the  stock, 

When  the  frost  is  on  the  punkm  and  the  fodder's  in  the  shock. 

They's  something  kindo'  harty-like  about  the  atmusfere 
When  the  heat  of  summer's  over  and  the  coolin'  fall  is  here — 
Of  course  we  miss  the  flowers,  and  the  blossoms  on  the  trees, 
And  the  mumble  of  the  hummin'-birds  and  buzzin'  of  the  bees; 


JAMES   WH1TCOMB  RILEY  107 

But  the  air's  so  appetizin';  and  the  landscape  through  the  haze 
Of  a  crisp  and  sunny  morning  of  the  airly  autumn  days 
Is  a  pictur'  that  no  painter  has  the  colonn'  to  mock — 
When  the  frost  is  on  the  punkm  and  the  fodder's  in  the  shock. 

The  husky,  rusty  russel  of  the  tossels  of  the  corn, 
And  the  raspm'  of  the  tangled  leaves  as  golden  as  the  morn; 
The  stuhbie  in  the  furrics — kindo*  lonesome-like,  but  still 
A-preachm'  sermuns  to  us  of  the  barns  they  growed  to  fill; 
The  strawstack  in  the  medder,  and  the  reaper  in  the  shed; 
The  bosses  in  theyr  stalls  below — the  clover  overhead! — 
O,  it  sets  my  hart  a-chckin'  like  the  tickin'  of  a  clock, 
When  the  frost  is  on  the  punkm  and  the  fodder's  in  the  shock. 

Then  your  apples  all  is  gcthcred,  and  the  ones  a  feller  keeps 

Is  poured  around  the  cellar-floor  in  red  and  yallcr  heaps; 

And  your  cidcr-makin's  over,  and  your  wimmern-tolks  is  through 

With  thcyr  mince  and  apple-butter,  and  theyr  souse  and  sausage  too!  , 

I  don't  know  how  to  tell  it — but  ct  such  a  thing  could  be 

As  the  angels  wantm*  boardm',  and  they'd  call  around  on  me — 

I'd  want  to  'commodatc  'em — all  the  whole-indurm'  flock — 

When  the  frost  is  on  the  punkm  and  the  fodder's  in  the  shock. 


A    PARTING    GUEST 

What  delightful  hosts  are  they — 

Life  and  Love' 
Lingcnngly  I  turn  away, 

This  late  hour,  yet  glad  enough 
They  have  not  withheld  from  me 

Their  high  hospitality. 
So,  with  lace  lit  with  delight 

And  all  gratitude,  I  stay 

Yet  to  press  their  hands  and  say, 
"Thanks. — So  fine  a  time'  Good  night." 


Eugene  Field 

A  .THOUGH  Eugene  Field  was  born  September  2,  1850,  in  St.  Louis,  Missouri,  his 
work  belongs  to  the  literature  of  the  West.  Colorado  and  the  Rocky  Mountain 
region  claimed  him  as  their  own  and  Field  never  repudiated  the  allegiance;  he  even 
called  most  of  his  poetry  "Western  Verse." 

Field's  area  of  education  embraced  New  England,  Missouri,  and  what  European 
territory  he  could  cover  in  six  months.  At  twenty-three  he  became  a  reporter  on 
the  St.  Louis  Evening  Journal;  the  rest  of  his  life  was  given,  with  a  dogged  devo- 
tion, to  journalism.  Driven  by  the  demands  of  his  unique  daily  columns  (those  on 
the  Denver  Tribune  [1881-1883]  and  the  Chicago  Daily  News  [1883-1805]  were 


io8 


EUGENE  FIELD 


widely  copied),  Field  first  capitalized  and  then  standardized  his  high  spirits,  his 
erudition,  his  whimsicality,  his  fondness  for  children.  He  wrote  so  often  with  his 
tongue  in  his  cheek  that  it  is  difficult  to  say  where  true  sentiment  stops  and  where 
exaggerated  sentimentality  begins.  "Field,"  says  Fred  Lewis  Pattee,  in  his  detailed 
study  of  American  Literature  Since  1870,  "more  than  any  other  writer  of  the  period, 
illustrates  the  way  the  old  type  of  literary  scholar  was  to  be  modified  and  changed 
by  the  newspaper.  Every  scrap  of  Field's  voluminous  product  was  written  for  im- 
mediate newspaper  consumption.  .  .  .  He  was  a  pioneer  in  a  peculiar  province:  he 
stands  for  the  journalization  of  literature,  a  process  that,  if  carried  to  its  logical  ex- 
treme, will  make  of  the  man  of  letters  a  mere  newspaper  reporter." 

Though  Field  was  overrated  by  his  confreres,  some  of  his  child  lyrics,  his  homely 
philosophic  ballads  (in  the  vein  which  HarLe  and  Riley  popularized)  and  his  bur 
lesques  won  him,  for  the  time,  a  conspicuous  place.  Readers  of  all  tastes  found  much 
to  delight  them  in  A  Little  Boof(  of  Western  Verse  (1889),  With  Tiumpet  and 
Drum  (1892),  A  Second  Boof(  of  Verse  (1893)  and  those  remarkable  versions  (and 
perversions)  of  Horace,  Echoes  from  the  Sabine  Farm  (1893),  written  m  collabo* 
ration  with  his  equally  adroit  though  practically  unknown  brother,  Roswell  M 
Field.  A  complete  one-volume  edition  of  his  verse  was  issued  in  1910. 

Field  died  in  Chicago,  Illinois,  November  4,  1895. 


OUR    TWO    OPINIONS 

Us  two  wuz  boys  when  we  fell  out, — 

Nigh  to  the  age  uv  my  youngest  now; 
Don't  rec'lect  what  'twuz  about, 

Some  small  deefPrence,  I'll  allow. 
Lived  next  neighbors  twenty  years, 

A-hatin'  each  other,  me  'nd  Jim, — 
He  havin'  his  opinyin  uv  me, 

'Nd  /  havin'  my  opinyin  uv  him. 

Grew  up  together  Jnd  wouldn't  speak, 

Courted  sisters,  'nd  marr'd  'em,  too; 
Tended  same  meetin'-house  oncet  a  week, 

A-hatin'  each  other  through  'nd  through' 
But  when  Abe  Lmkern  asked  the  West 

F'r  soldiers,  we  answered, — me  'nd  Jim, — 
He  havin'  his  opinyin  uv  me, 

'Nd  /  havin'  my  opinyin  uv  him. 

But  down  in  Tennessee  one  night 

Trier*  wuz  sound  uv  firm'  fur  away, 
'Nd  the  sergeant  allowed  ther'd  be  a  fight 

With  the  Johnnie  Rebs  some  time  nexj 

day; 
'Nd  as  I  wuz  thinkin'  uv  Lizzie  'nd  home 

Jim  stood  afore  me,  long  'nd  slim, — 
He  havin'  his  opinyin  uv  me, 

'Nd  /  havin'  my  opinyin  uv  him. 


Seemed  like  we  knew  triers  wuz  goin'  lo  be 

Serious  trouble  f  r  me  'nd  him; 
Us  two  shuck  hands,  did  Jim  'nd  me, 

But  never  a  word  from  me  or  Jim! 
He  went  his  way  'nd  /  went  mine, 

'Nd  into  the  battle's  roar  went  we, — 
7  havin'  my  opinyin  uv  ]im, 

'Nd  he  havin'  his  opinyin  uv  me. 

Jim  never  came  back  from  the  war  again, 

But  I  hain't  forgot  that  last,  last  night 
When,  waitin'  f'r  orders,  us  two  men 

Made  up  'nd  shuck  hands,  afore  the  fight. 
'Nd  after  it  all,  it's  soothin'  to  know 

That  here  I  be  'nd  younder's  Jim, — 
He  havin'  his  opinyin  uv  me, 

'Nd  /  havin'  my  opinyin  uv  him. 


LITTLE    BOY    BLUE 

The  little  toy  dog  is  covered  with  dust, 

But  sturdy  and  staunch  he  stands; 
The  little  toy  soldier  is  red  with  rust, 

And  his  musket  molds  in  his  hands. 
Time  was  when  the  little  toy  dog  was  new. 

And  the  soldier  was  passing  fair; 
And  that  was  the  time  when  our  Little  Boy 
Blue 

Kissed  them  and  put  them  there. 


EUGENE  FIELD  109 

"Now  don't  you  go  till  I  come,"  he  said,  Aye,  faithful  to  Little  Boy  Blue  they  stand, 

"And  don't  you  make  any  noise!"  Each  in  the  same  old  place, 

So,  toddling  off  to  his  trundle  bed,  Awaiting  the  touch  of  a  little  hand, 

He  dreamt  of  the  pretty  toys;  The  smile  of  a  little  face; 

And,  as  he  was  dreaming,  an  angel  song  And  they  wonder,  as  waiting  the  long  years 

Awakened  our  Little  Boy  Blue—  through 
Oh!   the  years  are  many,  the  years  are        In  the  dust  of  that  little  chair, 

long,  What  has  become  of  our  Little  Boy  Blue, 

But  the  little  toy  friends  are  true!  Since  he  kissed  them  and  put  them  there, 


SEEIN     THINGS 

I  ain't  afraid  uv  snakes  or  toads,  or  bugs  or  worms  or  mice, 

An'  things  'at  girls  are  skccred  uv  I  think  are  awtul  nice' 

I'm  pretty  brave  I  guess;  an*  yet  I  hate  to  go  to  bed, 

For,  when  I'm  tucked  up  warm  an'  snug  an'  when  my  prayers  are  said, 

Mother  tells  me  "Happy  Dreams"  an'  takes  away  the  light, 

An'  leaves  me  lyin'  all  alone  an'  seein'  things  at  night' 

Sometimes  they're  in  the  corner,  sometimes  they're  by  the  door, 
Sometimes  they're  all  a-standm'  in  the  middle  uv  the  floor; 
Sometimes  they  are  a-sittm'  down,  sometimes  they're  walkin'  round 
So  softly  and  so  creepy-hke  they  never  make  a  sound! 
Sometimes  they  are  as  black  as  ink,  an'  other  times  they're  white— 
But  color  ain't  no  difference  when  you  see  things  at  night! 

Once,  when  I  licked  a  feller  'at  had  just  moved  on  our  street, 

An'  father  sent  me  up  to  bed  without  a  bite  to  cat, 

I  woke  up  m  the  dark  an'  saw  things  standm'  in  a  row, 

A-lookin'  at  me  cross-eyed  an'  p'mtin'  at  me — so! 

Oh,  my'  I  wuz  so  skcered  'at  time  I  never  slep'  a  mite — 

It's  almost  alluz  when  I'm  bad  I  see  things  at  night! 

Lucky  thing  I  ain't  a  girl  or  I'd  be  skeered  to  death! 
Bein'  I'm  a  boy,  I  duck  my  head  an'  hold  my  breath. 
An'  I  am,  oh  so  sorry  I'm  a  naughty  boy,  an'  then 
I  promise  to  be  better  an'  I  say  my  prayers  again' 
Gran'ma  tells  me  that's  the  only  way  to  make  it  right 
When  a  feller  has  been  wicked  an'  sees  things  at  mghtl 

An'  so  when  other  naughty  boys  would  coax  me  into  sin, 
I  try  to  skwush  the  Tempter's  voice  'at  urges  me  within; 
An'  when  they's  pie  for  supper,  or  cakes  'at's  big  an'  nice, 
I  want  to — but  I  do  not  pass  my  plate  f'r  them  things  twice! 
No,  ruther  let  Starvation  wipe  me  slowly  out  o'  sight 
Than  I  should  keep  aJivin'  on  an*  seein'  things  at  night! 


no  EDWIN  MARKHAM 


Edwin  Markham 

EDWIN  MARKHAM  was  born  in  Oregon  City,  Oregon,  April  23,  1852,  the  youngest 
son  of  pioneer  parents.  His  father  died  before  he  reached  his  fifth  year  and  in 
1857  he  was  taken  by  his  mother  to  a  wild  valley  in  the  Suisun  Hills  in  central 
California.  Here  he  grew  to  young  manhood:  farming,  broncho-riding,  laboring  on 
a  cattle  ranch,  educating  himself  in  the  primitive  country  schools.  At  eighteen  he 
determined  to  be  a  teacher  and  entered  the  State  Normal  School  at  San  Jose. 

Since  childhood,  Markham  had  been  writing  verses  of  no  extraordinary  merit,  one 
of  his  earliest  pieces  being  a  Byronic  echo  (A  Dream  of  Chaos)  full  of  the  high- 
sounding  fustian  of  the  period.  Several  years  before  he  uttered  his  famous  challenge, 
Markham  was  writing  poems  of  protest,  insurrectionary  in  theme  but  conventional 
in  effect.  Suddenly,  in  1899,  a  sense  of  outrage  at  the  inequality  of  human  struggle 
voiced  itself  in  the  sonorous  poem,  "The  Man  with  the  Hoe."  Inspired  by  Millet's 
painting,  Markham  made  the  bowed,  broken  French  peasant  a  symbol  of  the 
poverty-stricken  toiler  in  all  lands — his  was  a  protest  not  against  toil  but  the  ex- 
ploitation of  labor.  "The  Yeoman  is  the  landed  and  well-to-do  farmer,"  says  Mark- 
ham,  "you  need  shed  no  tears  for  him.  But  here  in  the  Millet  picture  is  his  oppo- 
site— the  Hoeman;  the  landless  workman  of  the  world." 

The  success  of  the  poem  upon  its  appearance  in  the  San  Francisco  Examiner 
(January  15,  1899)  was  instantaneous.  The  lines  appeared  in  every  part  of  the 
globe;  they  were  quoted  and  copied  in  every  walk  of  life,  in  the  literary  and  the 
labor  world.  The  same  year  of  its  publication,  it  was  incorporated  in  Markham's 
first  volume,  The  Man  with  the  Floe  and  Other  Poems  (1899).  Two  years  later,  his 
almost  equally  well  known  poem  was  published.  The  same  passion  that  fired  Mark- 
ham  to  champion  the  great  common  workers  equipped  him  to  write  of  the  great 
Commoner  in  Lincoln,  and  Other  Poems  (1901).  His  later  volumes  are  a  descent, 
melodious  but  scarcely  remarkable.  They  have  the  rhetoric  without  the  resonance 
of  the  forerunners.  Never  reaching  the  heights,  there  are,  nevertheless,  moments  of 
dignity  in  The  Shoes  of  Happiness  (1914),  The  Gates  of  Paradise  (1920),  and  New 
Poems:  Eighty  Songs  at  Eighty  (1932),  published  with  a  nice  appropriateness  on 
the  poet's  eightieth  birthday.  Many  of  the  quatrains  are  memorable  epigrams. 

Markham  came  East  in  1901  and  made  his  home  on  Statcn  Island,  New  York, 
until  death  in  his  eighty-eighth  year.  His  life  spanned  the  continent;  born  near  one 
ocean,  he  died  facing  the  other  on  March  7,  1940. 


OUTWITTED 

He  drew  a  circle  that  shut  me  out — 
Heretic,  rebel,  a  thing  to  flout. 
But  Love  and  I  had  the  wit  to  win: 
We  drew  a  circle  that  took  him  in! 


EDWIN  MARKHAM  in 

THE    MAN    WITH    THE    HOE1 
(Written  after  seeing  Millet's  world-famous  painting) 

Bowed  by  the  weight  of  centuries  he  leans 
Upon  his  hoe  and  gazes  on  the  ground, 
The  emptiness  of  ages  in  his  face, 
And  on  his  back  the  burden  of  the  world. 
Who  made  him  dead  to  rapture  and  despair, 
A  j.hing_that  grieves  not  and  that  never  hopes, 
Stolid  and  stunned,  a  brother  to  the  ox? 
Who  loosened  and  let  down  this  brutal  jaw? 
Whose  was  the  hand  that  slanted  back  this  brow? 
Whose  breath  blew  out  the  light  within  this  brain? 

Is  this  the  Thing  the  Lord  God  made  and  gave 

To  have  dominion  over  sea  and  land; 

To  trace  the  stars  and  search  the  heavens  for  power; 

To  feel  the  passion  of  Eternity ? 

Is  this  the  dream  He  dreamed  who  shaped  the  suns 

And  marked  their  ways  upon  the  ancient  deep? 

Down  all  the  caverns  of  Hell  to  their  last  gulf 

There  is  no  shape  more  terrible  than  this — 

More  tongued  with  censure  of  the  world's  blind  greed — 

More  filled  with  signs  and  portents  for  the  soul — 

More  packt  with  danger  to  the  universe. 

What  gulfs  between  him  and  the  seraphim! 
Slave  of  the  wheel  of  labor,  what  to  him 
Are  Plato  and  the  swing  of  Pleiades? 
What  the  long  reaches  of  the  peaks  of  song, 
The  rift  of  dawn,  the  reddening  of  the  rose? 
Through  this  dread  shape  the  suffering  ages  look; 
Time's  tragedy  is  in  that  aching  stoop; 
Through  this  dread  shape  humanity  betrayed, 
Plundered,  profaned,  and  disinherited, 
Cries  protest  to  the  Judges  of  the  World, 
A  protest  that  is  also  prophecy. 

O  masters,  lords  and  rulers  in  all  lands, 

Is  this  the  handiwork  you  give  to  God, 

This  monstrous  thing  distorted  and  soul-quenched? 

How  will  you  ever  straighten  up  this  shape; 

Touch  it  again  with  immortality; 

Give  back  the  upward  looking  and  the  light; 

Rebuild  in  it  the  music  and  the  dream; 

Make  right  the  immemorial  infamies, 

Perfidious  wrongs,  immedicable  woes? 

O  masters,  lords  and  rulers  in  all  lands, 
How  will  the  Future  reckon  with  this  man? 

1  Revised  version,  1920.  Copyright  by  Edwin  Markham. 


112 


EDWIN  MARKHAM 


How  answer  his  brute  question  in  that  hour 
When  whirlwinds  of  rebellion  shake  all  shores? 
How  will  it  be  with  kingdoms  and  with  kings — 
With  those  who  shaped  him  to  the  thing  he  is — 
When  this  dumb  terror  shall  rise  to  judge  the  world, 
After  the  silence  of  the  centuries? 


THE    AVENGERS 

The  laws  are  the  secret  avengers, 
And  they  rule  above  all  lands; 

They  come  on  wool-soft  sandals, 
But  they  strike  with  iron  hands. 


PREPAREDNESS 

For  all  your  days  prepare, 
And  meet  them  ever  alike: 

When  you  are  the  anvil,  bear — 
When  you  are  the  hammer,  strike. 


LINCOLN,  THE  MAN  OF  THE  PEOPLE 

When  the  Norn  Mother  saw  the  Whirlwind  Hour 
Greatemng  and  darkening  as  it  hurried  on, 
She  left  the  Heaven  of  Heroes  and  came  down 
To  make  a  man  to  meet  the  mortal  need. 
She  took  the  tried  clay  of  the  common  road — 
Clay  warm  yet  with  the  genial  heat  ot  earth, 
Dasht  through  it  all  a  strain  of  prophecy; 
Tempered  the  heap  with  thrill  of  human  tears; 
Then  mixt  a  laughter  with  the  serious  stuff. 
Into  the  shape  she  breathed  a  flame  to  light 
That  tender,  tragic,  ever-changing  face; 
And  laid  on  him  a  sense  of  the  Mystic  Powers, 
Moving — all  husht — behind  the  mortal  veil. 
Here  was  a  man  to  hold  against  the  world, 
A  man  to  match  the  mountains  and  the  sea. 

The  color  of  the  ground  was  in  him,  the  red  earth; 

The  smack  and  tang  of  elemental  things: 

The  rectitude  and  patience  ot  the  cliff; 

The  good-will  of  the  rain  that  loves  all  leaves; 

The  friendly  welcome  of  the  wayside  well; 

The  courage  of  the  bird  that  dares  the  sea; 

The  gladness  of  the  wind  that  shakes  the  corn; 

The  pity  of  the  snow  that  hides  all  scars; 

The  secrecy  of  streams  that  make  their  way 

Under  the  mountain  to  the  rifted  rock; 

The  tolerance  and  equity  of  light 

That  gives  as  freely  to  the  shrinking  flower 

As  to  the  great  oak  flaring  to  the  wind — 

To  the  grave's  low  hill  as  to  the  Matterhorn 

That  shoulders  out  the  sky.  Sprung  from  the  West, 

He  drank  the  valorous  youth  of  a  new  world. 

The  strength  of  virgin  forests  braced  his  mind, 

The  hush  of  spacious  prairies  stilled  his  soul. 


EDWIN  MARKHAM 


His  words  were  oaks  in  acorns;  and  his  thoughts 
Were  roots  that  firmly  gnpt  the  granite  truth. 

Up  from  log  cabin  to  the  Capitol, 

One  fire  was  on  his  spirit,  one  resolve — 

To  send  the  keen  ax  to  the  root  of  wrong, 

Clearing  a  free  way  for  the  feet  of  God, 

The  eyes  of  conscience  testing  every  stroke, 

To  make  his  deed  the  measure  ot  a  man. 

He  built  the  rail-pile  as  he  built  the  State, 

Pouring  his  splendid  strength  through  every  blow: 

The  grip  that  swung  the  ax  in  Illinois 

Was  on  the  pen  that  set  a  people  free. 

So  came  the  Captain  with  the  mighty  heart. 
And  when  the  judgment  thunders  split  the  house, 
Wrenching  the  rafters  from  their  ancient  rest, 
He  held  the  ridgepole  up,  and  spiked  again 
The  rafters  of  the  Home.  He  held  his  place — 
Held  the  long  purpose  like  a  growing  tree — 
Held  on  through  blame  and  i altered  not  at  praise. 
And  when  he  fell  m  whirlwind,  he  went  down 
As  when  a  lordly  cedar,  green  with  boughs, 
Goes  down  with  a  great  shout  upon  the  hills, 
And  leaves  a  lonesome  place  against  the  sky. 


Lizette  Woodworth  Reese 

LZETTE  WOODWORTII  REESE  was  born  January  9,  1856,  in  Waverly,  Baltimore 
County,  Maryland,  of  mixed  English  and  German  stock.  After  receiving  an  edu- 
cation chiefly  in  private  schools  she  taught  English  at  the  Western  High  School  in 
Baltimore,  where  she  lived.  After  many  years  of  service,  she  retired  in  1921.  In  1923, 
the  alumni  of  the  High  School  where  she  had  taught  for  a  score  of  years,  together 
with  the  teachers  and  pupils,  presented  the  school  with  a  bronze  tablet  inscribed 
with  her  poem,  "Tears,"  one  of  the  most  famous  sonnets  written  by  an  American. 

At  first  glance,  Miss  Reese's  work  seems  merely  a  continuation  of  the  traditional 
strain;  some  of  her  critics  decried  her  poetry  as  being  English  rather  than  American. 
But  it  was  natural  that  her  verse  should  sound  a  note  which  has  been  the  dominant 
one  in  English  pastoral  poetry  from  Wordsworth  to  Hou&man.  Nor  was  Miss 
Reese's  inheritance  alone  responsible  for  this.  The  country  around  Baltimore,  every 
tree  and  path  of  which  Miss  Reese  knew  intimately,  was  settled  by  the  English  and 
had  the  shape  and  color  of  counties  like  Sussex  and  Buckinghamshire. 

Miss  Reese's  first  book,  A  Branch  of  May  (1887),  had  an  undercurrent  of  intensity 
beneath  its  quiet  contours.  Few  of  its  readers  in  the  Nineties  would  have  dreamed 
that  this  straightforward  undidactic  speech  would  pave  the  way  for  the  direct  songs 
of  Sara  Teasdale  and  Edna  St.  Vincent  Millay.  In  a  period  of  sugared  sentiment  and 


H4  LIZETTE  WOODWORTH  REESE 

lace  valentine  lyrics,  Miss  Reese's  crisp  lines  were  a  generation  ahead  of  the  times 
and  were  consequently  appreciated  only  for  their  pictorial  if  somewhat  prim  felici- 
ties. A  Handful  of  Lavender  (1891),  A  Quiet  Road  (1896),  and  A  Wayside  Lute 
(1909)  established  an  artistry  which,  for  all  its  seemingly  old-fashioned  elegance,  is 
as  spontaneous  as  it  is  skillful.  Here  are  no  verbal  tricks,  no  false  postures;  here  is 
a  simple  record  which  is,  somehow,  never  banal.  "This  poetry  of  hers,"  writes  Mary 
Colum,  "will  persist,  not  because  the  author  was  cleverer  or  more  original  than 
other  writers,  but  because  in  some  way  her  nerves  were  more  subtle  in  response  to 
the  kinds  of  life  and  experiences  that  came  her  way." 

From  1909  to  1920  there  was  a  silence.  During"  these  ten  years,  Miss  Reese  wrote 
little,  and  published  less.  Suddenly  her  work  appeared  again,  more  concise  than 
ever.  Spicewood  was  published  in  1920;  Wild  Cherry  in  1923;  a  generous  Selected 
Poems  in  1926;  Little  Henrietta  in  1927,  the  poet's  seventy -second  year;  A  Victorian 
Village,  her  reminiscences  of  a  changing  world,  in  1929. 

White  Aptil  (1930)  and  Pastures  (1933),  published  in  the  poet's  seventy-eighth 
year,  are  as  fresh  as  anything  she  wrote  in  her  youth.  The  limitations  are  obvious, 
but  they  are  the  limitations  which  marked  her  from  the  beginning:  a  preoccupation 
with  the  surprise  of  spring,  the  inevitable  changes  of  love,  the  unchanging  heart  of 
nature.  Individual  poems  make  romance  out  of  the  commonplace,  juxtaposing  the 
minute  with  the  momentous,  and,  while  the  poems  lack  singularity,  the  verve  is  un- 
mistakable. 

These  volumes,  like  the  earlier  ones,  reveal  the  qualities  which  influenced  a  gen- 
eration of  women  poets.  In  her  late  seventies,  writing  like  a  young  girl,  the  poet 
sings  of  lilacs  in  Old  York  Lane,  of  thorn  trees  and  blackberry  ram,  of  Judas-blos- 
soms and  daffodils,  of  spring  ecstasy  and  lost  love,  of  a  dead  lady  in  her  garden, 
and  Mary  at  the  manger.  But  there  is  always  something  personal,  always  something 
which  makes  the  very  repetitions  take  on  a  light  which  is  fresh  and  clear.  At  least 
a  dozen  of  her  brief  songs  and  lyrical  sonnets  have  found  a  niche  in  American  litera- 
ture. Hers  is  a  singing  that  is  not  dependent  on  a  fashion. 

Lizette  Reese  died,  after  a  brief  illness  a  few  weeks  before  her  eightieth  birthday, 
December  17,  1935. 

TEARS 

When  I  consider  Life  and  its  few  years — 

A  wisp  of  fog  betwixt  us  and  the  sun; 

A  call  to  battle,  and  the  battle  done 

Ere  the  last  echo  dies  within  our  ears; 

A  rose  choked  in  the  grass;  an  hour  of  fears; 

The  gusts  that  past  a  darkening  shore  do  beat; 

The  burst  of  music  down  an  unhstening  street, — 

I  wonder  at  the  idleness  of  tears. 

Ye  old,  old  dead,  and  ye  of  yesternight, 
Chieftains,  and  bards,  and  keepers  of  the  sheep, 
By  every  cup  of  sorrow  that  you  had, 
Loose  me  from  tears,  and  make  me  see  aright 
How  each  hath  back  what  once  he  stayed  to  weep: 
Homer  his  sight,  David  his  little  lad! 


LIZETTE  WOODWORTH  REESE 

SPICEWOOD 

The  spicewood  burns  along  the  gray,  spent  sky, 
In  moist  unchimneyed  places,  in  a  wind, 
That  whips  it  all  before,  and  all  behind, 
Into  one  thick,  rude  flame,  now  low,  now  high. 
It  is  the  first,  the  homeliest  thing  of  all — 
At  sight  of  it,  that  lad  that  by  it  fares, 
Whistles  afresh  his  foolish,  town-caught  airs — 
A  thing  so  honey-colored  and  so  tall! 

It  is  as  though  the  young  Year,  ere  he  pass 
To  the  white  not  of  the  cherry  tree, 
Would  fain  accustom  us,  or  here,  or  there, 
To  his  new  sudden  ways  with  bough  and  grass, 
So  starts  with  what  is  humble,  plain  to  see, 
And  all  familiar  as  a  cup,  a  chair. 


SPRING    ECSTASY 

Oh,  let  me  run  and  hide, 
Let  me  run  straight  to  God; 

The  weather  is  so  mad  with  white 
From  sky  down  to  the  clod! 

If  but  one  thing  were  so, 

Lilac,  or  thorn  out  there, 
It  would  not  be,  indeed, 

So  hard  to  bear. 

The  weather  has  gone  mad  with  white; 

The  cloud,  the  highway  touch. 
White  lilac  is  enough; 

White  thorn  too  much! 


OWNERSHIP 

Love  not  a  loveliness  too  much, 
For  it  may  turn  and  clutch  you  so, 
That  you  be  less  than  any  serf, 
And  at  its  nodding  go. 

Be  master;  otherwise  you  grow 
Too  small,  too  humble,  like  to  one 
Long  dispossessed,  who  stares  through  tears 
At  his  lost  house  across  the  sun. 

Wild  carrot  in  an  old  field  here, 
Or  steeple  choked  with  music  there, 
Possess,  as  part  of  what  is  yours; 
Thus  prove  yourself  the  heir. 


Your  barony  is  sky  and  land, 
From  morning's  start  to  the  night's  close 
Bend  to  your  need  Orion'!*  hounds, 
Or  the  small  fagot  of  a  rose. 


A    PURITAN    LADY 

Wild  Carthage  held  her,  Rome, 

Sidon.  She  staicd  to  tears 
Tall,  golden  Helen,  wearying 

Behind  the  Trojan  spears. 

Towered  Antwerp  knew  her  well; 

She  wore  her  quiet  gown 
In  some  hushed  house  in  Oxford  grass, 

Or  lane  in  Salem  town. 

Humble  and  high  in  one, 

Cool,  certain,  different, 
She  lasts;  scarce  saint,  yet  half  a  child, 

As  hard,  as  innocent. 

What  grave,  long  afternoons, 
What  caged  airs  round  her  blown, 

Stripped  her  of  humor,  left  her  bare 
As  cloud,  or  wayside  stone? 

Made  her  as  clear  a  thing, 

In  this  slack  world  as  plain 
As  a  white  flower  on  a  grave, 

Or  sleet  sharp  at  a  pane? 


//6  LIZETTE   WOODWORTH  REESE 

A    FLOWER    OF     MULLEIN 

I  am  too  near,  too  clear  a  thing  for  you, 

A  flower  of  mullein  in  a  crack  of  wall, 

The  villagers  half-see,  or  not  at  all; 

Part  of  the  weather,  like  the  wind  or  dew. 

You  love  to  pluck  the  different,  and  find 

Stuff  for  your  joy  in  cloudy  loveliness; 

You  love  to  fumble  at  a  door,  and  guess 

At  some  strange  happening  that  may  wait  behind. 

Yet  life  is  full  of  tricks,  and  it  is  plain, 

That  men  drift  back  to  some  worn  field  or  roof, 

To  grip  at  comfort  in  a  room,  a  stair; 

To  warm  themselves  at  some  flower  down  a  lane: 

You,  too,  may  long,  grown  tired  of  the  aloof, 

For  the  sweet  surety  of  the  common  air. 

MIRACLE 

Who  is  in  love  with  loveliness, 

Need  not  shake  with  cold; 
For  he  may  tear  a  star  in  two, 

And  frock  himself  in  gold. 

Who  holds  her  first  within  his  heart, 

Tn  certain  favor  goes; 
If  his  roof  tumbles,  he  may  find 

Harbor  in  a  rose. 


WILD    CHF,RRY 

Why  make  your  lodging  here  in  this  spent  lane, 

Where  but  an  old  man,  with  his  sheep  each  day, 

Twice  through  the  forgotten  grass  goes  by  your  way, 

Half  sees  you  there,  and  not  once  looks  again? 

For  you  are  of  the  very  ribs  of  spring, 

And  should  have  many  lovers,  who  have  none. 

In  silver  cloaks,  in  hushed  troops  down  the  sun 

Should  they  draw  near,  oh,  strange  and  lovely  thing' 

Beauty  has  no  set  weather,  no  sure  place; 

Her  careful  pageantries  are  here  as  there, 

With  nothing  lost.  And  soon,  some  lad  may  start — 

A  strayed  Mayer  in  this  unremembered  space — 

At  your  tall  white,  and  know  you  very  fair, 

Let  all  else  go  to  roof  within  your  heart. 

OLD   SAUL 

I  cannot  think  of  any  word 

To  make  it  plain  to  you, 

How  white  a  thing  the  hawthorn  bush 

That  delicately  blew 


LIZETTE   WOODWORTH  REESE  //; 

Within  a  crook  of  Tinges  Lane; 
Each  May  Day  there  it  stood; 
And  lit  a  flame  of  loveliness 
For  the  small  neighborhood. 

So  fragile-white  a  thing  it  was, 
I  cannot  make  it  plain. 
Or  the  sweet  fumbling  of  the  bees, 
Like  the  break  in  a  ram. 

Old  Saul  lived  near.  And  this  his  life: — 

To  cobble  for  his  bread; 

To  mourn  a  tall  son  lost  at  sea; 

A  daughter  worse  than  dead. 

And  so,  in  place  of  all  his  lack, 

He  set  the  hawthorn-tree; 

Made  it  his  wealth,  his  mirth,  his  god, 

His  Zion  to  touch  and  see. 

Born  English  he.  Down  Tinges  Lane 
His  lad's  years  came  and  went, 
He  saw  out  there  behind  his  thorn, 
A  hundred  thorns  of  Kent. 

At  lovers  slipping  through  the  dusk, 

He  shook  a  lover's  head; 

Grudged  them  each  flower.  It  was  too  white 

For  any  but  the  dead. 

Once  on  a  blurred,  wet,  silver  day, 
He  said  to  two  or  three: 
"Folks,  when  I  go,  pluck  yonder  bloom, 
That  I  may  take  with  me." 

But  it  was  winter  when  he  went, 
The  road  wind-wrenched  and  torn; 
They  laid  upon  his  coffin  lid 
A  wreath  made  all  of  thorn. 


WOMEN 

Some  women  herd  such  little  things — a  box 

Oval  and  glossy,  in  its  gilt  and  red, 

Or  squares  of  satin,  or  a  high,  dark  bed — 

But  when  love  comes,  they  drive  to  it  all  their  flocks; 

Yield  up  their  crooks;  take  little;  gain  for  fold 

And  pasture  each  a  small,  forgotten  grave. 

When  they  are  gone,  then  lesser  women  crave 

And  squander  their  sad  hoards;  their  shepherds'  gold. 


//* 


L1ZETTE  WOODWORTH  REESE 

Some  gather  life  like  faggots  in  a  wood, 

And  crouch  its  blaze,  without  a  thought  at  all 

Past  warming  their  pinched  selves  to  the  last  spark. 

And  women  as  a  whole  are  swift  and  good, 

In  humor  scarce,  their  measure  being  small; 

They  plunge  and  leap,  yet  somehow  miss  the  dark. 


SURETY 

How  do  I  know  that  you  will  come  again? 
I  judge  you  by  imperishable  things 
Like  crab-trees  rosy  as  the  cloaks  of  kings, 
That  twice  a  year  blow  down  the  same  tall  lane. 
I  dare  the  silence  in  the  house,  each  place 
Without  you,  as  a  stalk  of  leaf,  the  wrong 
The  neighbors  do  you  in  their  talk,  the  song 
Beaten  out  of  bells,  and  dusk,  and  a  great  space. 
Nothing  can  tear  the  spring  from  out  the  year, 
Or  love  from  out  the  heart.  Both  hands  have  I 
Filled  with  crab-bloom  November  as  in  May. 
Is  bloom  to  bough  than  you  to  me  more  dear? 
Has  the  old  trick  of  flowering  been  put  by? 
You  will  come  back,  you  will  come  back  and  stay. 


CROWS 

Earth  is  raw  with  this  one  note, 
This  tattered  making  of  a  song, 

Narrowed  down  to  a  crow's  throat, 
Above  the  willow-trees  that  throng 

The  crooking  field  from  end  to  end. 

Fixed  as  the  sun,  the  grave,  this  sound; 
Of  what  the  weather  has  to  spend 

As  much  a  part  as  sky  or  ground. 

The  primal  yellow  of  that  flower, 
The  tansy  making  August  plain; 


And  the  stored  wildness  of  this  hour 
It  sucks  up  like  a  bitter  rain. 

Miss  it  we  would,  were  it  not  here, 
Simple  as  water,  rough  as  spring, 

It  hurls  us  at  the  point  of  spear, 
Back  to  some  naked,  early  thing. 

Listen  now.  As  with  a  hoof 
It  stamps  an  image  on  the  gust; 

Chimney  by  chimney  a  lost  roof 
Starts  for  a  moment  from  its  dust. 


Louise  Imogen  Guiney 

EUISE  IMOGEN  GUINEY  was  born  in  Boston,  Massachusetts,  in  1861.  Although  she 
attended  Elmhurst  Academy  in  Providence,  most  of  her  studying  was  with  pri- 
vate tutors.  In  1901  she  went  to  England,  where  she  lived  until  her  death. 

Traditional  in  form  and  feeling,  Miss  Guiney's  work  has  a  distinctly  personal 
vigor;  even  her  earliest  collections,  Songs  at  the  Start  (1884)  and  The  White  Sail 
and  Other  Poems  (1887),  are  not  without  individuality.  Her  two  most  characteristic 


LOUlSti  IMOGEN  GUINEA 


119 


volumes  are  A  Roadside  Harp  (1893)  and  Patrins  (1897).  Happy  Ending  appeared 
in  1909,  and  was  reissued  with  additional  poems  in  1927. 

Though  much  of  her  work  is  poeticizing  rather  than  poetry,  there  is  no  mistaking 
the  high  seriousness  of  her  aimrKespbhding  to  the  influence  of  the  Cavalier  poets 
whom  she  greatly  admired,  her  best  lines  beat  with  a  galloping 'courage.  Aware  of 
the  poet's  mission,  she  held  her  pen  "in  trust  to  Art,  not  serving  shame  or  lust"; 
a  militant  faith  was  the  very  keynote  of  her  writing.  Contemporary  life  aflected  her 
but  little;  even  her  peasant  songs  ("In  Leinster"  for  example)  have  a  remoteness 
which  escapes  the  impact  of  the  present.  Still,  she  was  not  a  literary  escapist;  a  mys- 
tic with  vitality,  her  verse  was  vigorous  even  when  she  was  most  spiritual.  "The 
Kings"  and  "The  Wild  Ride"  are  assured  of  a  place  as  long  as  American  antholo- 
gies are  made. 

Miss  Gumey  died  at  Chipping-Campden,  near  Oxford,  England,  November  3, 
1920. 


THE    KINGS 

A  man  said  unto  his  Angel: 
"My  spirits  are  fallen  low, 

And  I  cannot  carry  this  battle: 
O  brother!  where  might  I  go? 

"The  terrible  Kings  are  on  me 
With  spears  that  are  deadly  bright; 

Against  me  so  from  the  cradle 
Do  fate  and  my  fathers  fight." 

Then  said  to  the  man  his  Angel: 
"Thou  wavering,  witless  soul, 

Back  to  the  ranks!  What  matter 
To  win  or  lose  the  whole, 

"As  judged  by  the  little  judges 
Who  hearken  not  well,  nor  see? 

Not  thus,  by  the  outer  issue, 
The  Wise  shall  interpret  thee. 

"Thy  will  is  the  sovereign  measure 
And  only  event  of  things: 


The  puniest  heart,  defying, 

Were  stronger  than  all  these  Kings. 

"Though  out  of  the  past  they  gather, 
Mind's  Doubt,  and  Bodily  Pain, 

And  pallid  Thirst  of  the  Spirit 
That  is  km  to  the  other  twain. 


"And  Grief,  in  a  cloud  of  banners, 
And  ringleted  Vain  Desires, 

And  Vice,  with  the  spoils  upon  him 
Of  thee  and  thy  beaten  sires, — 

"While  Kings  of  eternal  evil 
Yet  darken  the  hills  about, 

Thy  part  is  with  broken  saber 
To  rise  on  the  last  redoubt; 

"To  fear  not  sensible  failure, 
Nor  covet  the  game  at  all, 

But  fighting,  fighting,  fighting, 
Die,  driven  against  the  wall!" 


THE    WILD    RIDE 

1  hear  In  my  heart,  I  hear  in  its  ominous  pulses, 

All  day,  on  the  road,  the  hoofs  of  invisible  horses, 

All  night,  from  their  stalls,  the  importunate  pawing  and  neighing. 

Let  cowards  and  laggards  fall  back!  But  alert  to  the  saddle 
Weatherworn  and  abreast,  go  men  of  our  galloping  legion, 
With  a  stirrup-cup  each  to  the  lily  of  women  that  loves  him. 


120  LOUISE  IMOGEN  GUINEY 

The  trail  is  through  dolor  and  dread,  over  crags  and  morasses; 
There  are  shapes  by  the  way,  there  are  things  that  appal  or  entice  us; 
What  odds?  We  are  Knights  of  the  Grail,  we  are  vowed  to  the  riding. 

Thought's  ,self  is  a  vanishing  wing,  and  joy  is  a  cobweb, 
And  friendship  a  flower  in  the  dust,  and  glory  a  sunbeam: 
Not  here  is  our  prize,  nor,  alas!  after  these  our  pursuing. 

A  dipping  of  plumes,  a  tear,  a  shake  of  the  bridle, 
A  passing  salute  to  this  world  and  her  pitiful  beauty; 
We  hurry  with  never  'a  word  in  the  track  of  our  fathers. 

/  hear  in  my  heart,  1  hear  in  its  ominous  pulses, 

All  day,  on  the  road,  the  hoofs  of  invisible  horses, 

All  night,  from  then  stalls,  the  importunate  pawing  and  neighing. 

We  spur  to  a  land  of  no  name,  outracing  the  storm-wind; 

We  leap  to  the  infinite  dark  like  sparks  from  the  anvil. 

Thou  leadest,  O  God!  All's  well  with  Thy  troopers  that  follow. 


Bliss  Carman 

(William)  Bliss  Carman  was  born  in  Fredericton,  New  Brunswick,  Canada,  April 
15,  1 86 1,  of  a  long  line  of  United  Empire  Loyalists  who  withdrew  from  Connecticut 
at  the  time  of  the  Revolutionary  War.  Carman  was  educated  at  the  University  of 
New  Brunswick  (1879-81),  at  Edinburgh  (1882-3),  and  Harvard  (1886-8).  He  took 
up  his  residence  in  the  United  States  about  1889. 

In  1893,  Carman  issued  his  first  book,  Low  Tide  on  Gtand  Pie:  A  Boo\  of  Lyrics. 
From  the  outset,  it  was  evident  that  Carman  possessed  lyrical  power:  the  ability  to 
interpret  the  external  world  through  personal  intensity.  A  buoyancy,  new  to  Ameri- 
can literature,  made  his  camaraderie  with  Nature  frankly  pagan  in  contrast  to  the 
moralizing  tributes  of  his  contemporaries.  This  freshness  and  whimsy  made  Car- 
man the  natural  collaborator  for  Richard  Hovcy,  and  when  their  first  joint  Songs 
from  Vagabondia  appeared  in  1894  Carman's  fame  was  established.  Even  so  devout 
a  poet  as  Francis  Thompson  was  enthusiastic  about  the  book's  irresponsibility: 
"These  snatches,"  wrote  Thompson,  "have  the  spirit  of  a  gypsy  Omar  Khayyam. 
They  have  always  careless  verve  and  often  careless  felicity;  they  are  masculine  and 
rough  as  roving  songs  should  be." 

Although  the  three  Vagabondia  collections  contain  Carman's  best  poems,  several 
of  his  other  volumes  (he  published  over  twenty  of  them)  vibrate  with  something  of 
the  same  pulse.  A  physical  gayety  rises  from  Ballads  of  Lost  Haven  (1897),  From 
the  Boo\  of  Myths  (1902)  and  Songs  of  the  Sea  Children  (1904),  songs  for  the 
open  road,  the  windy  beach,  the  mountamtop. 

Carman  also  wrote  several  volumes  of  essays  and,  in  conjunction  with  Mary  Perry 
Kmg,  devised  poem-dances  (Daughters  of  Dawn,  1913),  suggesting  Vachel  Lind- 
say's later  poem-games.  Although  the  strength  is  diluted  and  the  music  thinned  in 


BLISS  CARMAN 


121 


the  later  collections,  such  as  April  Airs  (1916)  and  Wild  Gaiden  (1929),  some  of 
the  old  magic  persists;  the  spell  is  over-familiar  but  it  is  not  quite  powerless. 

Carman  died  in  June,  1929,  at  New  Canaan,  Connecticut,  and  was  buried  in  his 
native  province  of  New  Brunswick. 


A    VAGABOND    SONG 

There  is  something  in  the  autumn  that  is  native  to  my  blood- 
Touch  of  manner,  hint  of  mood; 
And  my  heart  is  like  a  rhyme, 
With  the  yellow  and  the  purple  and  the  crimson  keeping  time. 

The  scarlet  of  the  maples  can  shake  me  like  a  cry 

Of  bugles  going  by. 

And  my  lonely  spirit  thrills 

To  see  the  frosty  asters  like  a  smoke  upon  the  hills. 

There  is  something  in  October  sets  the  gypsy  blood  astir; 

We  must  rise  and  follow  her, 

When  from  every  hill  of  flame 

She  calls  and  calls  each  vagabond  by  name. 


THE    GRAVEDIGGER 

Oh,  the  shambling  sea  is  a  sexton  old, 
And  well  his  work  is  done. 
With  an  equal  grave  for  lord  and  knave, 
He  buries  them  every  one. 

Then  hoy  and  rip,  with  a  rolling  hip, 
He  makes  for  the  nearest  shore; 
And  God,  who  sent  him  a  thousand  ship, 
Will  send  him  a  thousand  more; 

But  some  he'll  save  for  a  bleaching  grave, 
And  shoulder  fhem  m  to  shore, — 
Shoulder  them  in,  shoulder  them  in, 
Shoulder  them  in  to  shore. 

Oh,  the  ships  of  Greece  and  the  ships  of  Tyre 
Went  out,  and  where  are  they? 
In  the  port  they  made,  they  are  delayed 
With  the  ships  of  yesterday. 

He  followed  the  ships  of  England  far, 

As  the  ships  of  long  ago; 

And  the  ships  of  France  they  led  him  a 

dance, 
But  he  laid  them  all  arow. 

Oh,  a  loafing,  idle  lubber  to  him 
Is  the  sexton  of  the  town; 


For  sure  and  swift,  with  a  guiding  lift, 
He  shovels  the  dead  men  down. 

But  though  he  delves  so  fierce  and  grim, 
His  honest  graves  arc  wide, 
As  well  they  know  who  sleep  below 
The  dredge  of  the  deepest  tide. 

Oh,  he  works  with  a  rollicking  stave  at  lip 
And  loud  is  the  chorus  skirled; 
With  the  burly  rote  of  his  rumbling  throat 
He  batters  it  down  the  world. 

He  learned  it  once  in  his  father's  house, 
Where  the  ballads  of  eld  were  sung; 
And  merry  enough  is  the  burden  rough, 
But  no  man  knows  the  tongue. 

Oh,  fair,  they  say,  was  his  bride  to  see, 
And  willful  she  must  have  been, 
That  she  could  bide  at  his  gruesome  side 
When  the  first  red  dawn  came  in. 

And  sweet,  they  say,  is  her  kiss  to  those 
She  greets  to  his  border  home; 
And  softer  than  sleep  her  hand's  first  sweep 
That  beckons,  and  they  come. 


722 


BLISS  CARMAN 


Oh,  crooked  is  he,  but  strong  enough 
To  handle  the  tallest  mast; 
From  the  royal  barque  to  the  slaver  dark, 
He  buries  them  all  at  last. 

Then  hoy  and  rip,  with  a  rolling  hip, 
He  mafys  for  the  neatest  shore; 
And  God,  who  sent  him  a  thousand  ship, 
Will  send  him  a  thousand  more; 
But  some  he'll  save  for  a  bleaching  grave, 
And  shoulder  them  in  to  shore, — 
Shoulder  them  in,  shoulder  them  in, 
Shoulder  them  in  to  shore. 


HEM    AND    HAW 

Hem  and  Haw  were  the  sons  of  sin, 
Created  to  shally  and  shirk; 
Hem  lay  'round  and  Haw  looked  on 
While  God  did  all  the  work. 

Hem  was  foggy,  and  Haw  was  a  prig, 
For  both  had  the  dull,  dull  mind; 
And  whenever  they  found  a  thing  to  do, 
They  yammered  and  went  it  blind. 

Hem  was  the  father  of  bigots  and  bores; 
As  the  sands  of  the  sea  were  they. 
And  Haw  was  the  father  of  all  the  tribe 
Who  criticize  today. 

But  God  was  an  artist  from  the  first, 
And  knew  what  he  was  about; 


While  over  his  shoulder  sneered  these  two, 
And  advised  him  to  rub  it  out. 

They  prophesied  ruin  ere  man  was  made; 

"Such  folly  must  surely  fail'" 

And  when  he  was  done,  "Do  you  think,  my 

Lord, 
He's  better  without  a  tail?" 

And  still  in  the  honest  working  world, 
With  posture  and  hint  and  smirk, 
These  sons  of  the  devil  are  standing  by 
While  man  does  all  the  work. 

They  balk  endeavor  and  baffle  reform, 
In  the  sacred  name  of  law; 
And  over  the  quavering  voice  of  Hem 
Is  the  droning  voice  of  Haw. 


DAISIES 

Over  the  shoulders  and  slopes  of  the  dune^ 
I  saw  the  white  daisies  go  down  to  the  sea, 
A  host  in  the  sunshine,  an  army  in  June, 
The  people  God  sends  us  to  set  our  hearts 
free. 

The  bobolinks  rallied  them  up  from  the  dell, 
The  orioles  whistled  them  out  of  the  wood; 
And  all  of  their  singing  was,  "Earth,  it  is 

well!" 
And  all  of  their  dancing  was,  "Life,  thou  art 

good!" 


George  Santayana 


GiORGE  SANTAYANA  was  born  in  Madrid,  Spain,  December  16,  1863,  came  to  the 
United  States  at  the  age  of  nine,  and  was  educated  at  Harvard,  where  later  he 
became  instructor  of  philosophy  the  same  year  he  received  his  Ph.D.  This  was  in 
1889.  From  1889  to  1912  he  remained  at  Harvard,  becoming  not  merely  one  of  the 
most  noted  professors  in  the  history  of  the  University,  but  one  of  the  most  notable 
minds  in  America.  In  1914,  he  went  abroad;  since  then  he  has  been  living  in  France, 
in  England  and  in  Italy. 

Santayana's  first  work  was  in  verse,  Sonnets  and  Poems  (1894).  It  is  a  wise  seri- 
ousness which  is  here  proclaimed,  although  the  idiom  is  as  traditional  as  the  figures 
are  orthodox.  The  Sense  of  Beauty  (1896),  and  The  Life  of  Reason  (1905),  a  study 
of  the  phases  of  human  progress  in  five  volumes,  received  far  more  attention  than 


GEORGE  SANTAYANA  123 

Santayana's  verse.  In  the  interval  he  achieved  fame  as  a  philosopher,  and  it  was 
with  an  almost  apologetic  air  that  Santayana  prefaced  his  collected  Poems  which, 
after  a  process  of  revision,  appeared  in  1923.  "Of  impassioned  tenderness  or  Dio- 
nysiac  frenzy  I  have  nothing,  nor  even  of  that  magic  and  pregnancy  of  phrase — 
really  the  creation  of  a  fresh  idiom — which  marks  the  high  lights  of  poetry.  Even 
if  my  temperament  had  been  naturally  warmer,  the  fact  that  the  English  language 
(and  I  can  write  no  other  with  assurance)  was  not  my  mother-tongue  would  of 
itself  preclude  any  inspired  use  of  it  on  my  part;  its  roots  do  not  quite  reach  to 
my  center.  I  never  drank  in  in  childhood  the  homely  cadences  and  ditties  which  in 
pure  spontaneous  poetry  set  the  essential  key." 

Yet,  as  Santayana  himself  maintained  later  on,  the  thoughts  which  prompted  his 
verses  could  not  have  been  transcribed  in  any  other  form.  If  the  prosody  is  worn 
somewhat  thin,  it  is  because  the  poet-philosopher  chose  the  classic  mold  in  the  be- 
lief that  the  innate  freedom  of  poets  to  hazard  new  forms  docs  not  abolish  the  free- 
dom to  attempt  the  old  ones.  The  moralizing  is  personal,  even  the  rhetoric  is  justi- 
fied. "Here  is  the  hand  of  an  apprentice,  but  of  an  apprentice  in  a  great  school." 

The  tradition  has,  even  in  these  experimental  days,  its  defenders.  One  of  the  most 
persuasive  of  them,  Robert  Hillyer,  writes,  "In  the  shrewd,  though  perhaps  too 
deprecatory,  preface  to  his  Collected  Poems,  George  Santayana  builds  up  the  case 
for  what  is  sometimes  called  the  rhetorical  style.  He  affirms  the  validity  ot  the  tradi- 
tional, even  the  conventional,  mode — not  to  the  exclusion  of  more  experimental  pat- 
terns but  as  equally  defensible  with  the  newer  forms.  Such  is  his  statement;  his  im- 
plication is  clearly  m  favor  of  tradition.  'To  say  that  what  was  good  once  is  good 
no  longer  is  to  give  too  much  importance  to  chronology.  Esthetic  fashions  may 
change,  losing  as  much  beauty  at  one  end  as  they  gain  at  the  other,  but  innate  taste 
continues  to  recognize  its  affinities,  however  remote,  and  need  never  change/  His 
poetry  shows  both  the  virtues  and  the  defects  inherent  in  such  standards.  Some  of 
the  sonnets  are  among  the  finest  in  the  language;  the  'Athletic  Ode/  on  the  other 
hand,  is  a  set  piece  wherein  half-backs  and  Greek  deities  quite  naturally  eye  each 
other  askance. 

"Mr.  Santayana's  output  in  verse  has  not  been  large.  Besides  the  sonnets  and  odes, 
he  composed  an  epic  drama,  Lucifer,  which  deserves  study  for  the  frequent  mag- 
nificence of  its  style  and  the  intricacy  of  its  thought.  But  for  the  common  reader, 
the  sonnets  will  be  most  easily  acceptable.  Many  modern  readers  are  as  dogmatic  in 
their  rejection  of  the  traditional  style  as  professors  are  supposed  to  be  in  their  re- 
jection of  the  new.  But  if  our  ears  and  minds  are  not  wholly  closed  to  dignity  and 
sumptuousness  of  phrasing,  we  shall  not  hesitate  to  place  Mr.  Santayana's  sequence 
among  the  greatest  in  our  literature.  Had  he  composed  it  two  or  three  hundred 
years  ago  no  one  would  quibble;  but  that  a  contemporary  should  insist  on  Parnassus 
is  almost  as  shocking  as  a  preference  for  old  Bohemia  over  new  Czechoslovakia. 
Mr.  Santayana  is  definitely  behind  the  times.  Perhaps  he  is  also  ahead  of  them/* 

Not  even  the  most  casual  appraisal  of  Santayana's  contribution  to  the  period  can 
be  complete  without  a  tribute  to  his  prose.  At  seventy-two  he  made  his  debut  as 
novelist  with  The  Last  Puritan  (1936).  The  quality  of  Santayana's  thinking  is 
heightened  by  his  style,  a  style  which  is  both  firm  and  flexible,  the  gift  of  one  of 
the  unquestionable  masters  of  English  prose. 


124  GEORGE  SANTAS  AN  A 

AS    IN    THE    MIDST    OF    BATTLE    THERE    IS    ROOM 

As  in  the  midst  of  battle  there  is  room 

For  thoughts  of  love,  and  in  foul  sin  for  mirth; 

As  gossips  whisper  of  a  trinket's  worth 

Spied  by  the  death-bed's  flickering  candle-gloom; 

As  in  the  crevices  of  Caesar's  tomb 

The  sweet  herbs  flourish  on  a  little  earth: 

So  in  this  great  disaster  of  our  birth 

We  can  be  happy,  and  forget  our  doom. 

For  morning,  with  a  ray  of  tendcrcst  joy 

Gilding  the  iron  heaven,  hides  the  truth, 

And  evening  gently  woos  us  to  employ 

Our  grief  in  idle  catches.  Such  is  youth; 

Till  from  that  summer's  trance  we  wake,  to  find 

Despair  before  us,  vanity  behind. 


AFTER    GRAY    VIGILS,    SUNSHINE    IN    THE     HEART 

After  gray  vigils,  sunshine  in  the  heart; 

After  long  fasting  on  the  journey,  food; 

After  sharp  thirst,  a  draught  ot  perfect  good 

To  flood  the  soul,  and  heal  her  ancient  smart. 

Joy  of  my  sorrow,  never  can  we  part; 

Thou  broodest  o'er  me  in  the  haunted  wood, 

And  with  new  music  fill'st  the  solitude 

By  but  so  sweetly  being  what  thou  art. 

He  who  hath  made  thee  perfect,  makes  me  blest. 

O  fiery  minister,  on  mighty  wings 

Bear  me,  great  love,  to  mine  eternal  rest. 

Heaven  it  is  to  be  at  peace  with  things; 

Come  chaos  now,  and  in  a  whirlwind's  rings 

Engulf  the  planets.  I  have  seen  the  best. 


ON    THE    DEATH     OF     A     METAPHYSICIAN 

Unhappy  dreamer,  who  outwinged  in  flight 
The  pleasant  region  of  the  things  I  love, 
And  soared  beyond  the  sunshine,  and  above 
The  golden  cornfields  and  the  dear  and  bright 
Warmth  of  the  hearth, — blasphemer  of  delight, 
Was  your  proud  bosom  not  at  peace  with  Jove, 
That  you  sought,  thankless  for  his  guarded  grove 
The  empty  horror  of  abysmal  night ? 

Ah,  the  thin  air  is  cold  above  the  moon! 
I  stood  and  saw  you  fall,  befooled  in  death, 
As,  in  your  numbed  spirit's  fatal  swoon, 
You  cried  you  were  a  god,  or  were  to  be; 
I  heard  with  feeble  moan  your  boastful  breath 
Bubble  from  depths  of  the  Icarian  sea. 


GEORGE  S  ANT  AY  ANA  725 

THE    RUSTIC    AT    THE    PLAY 

Our  youth  is  like  a  rustic  at  the  play 

That  cries  aloud  in  simple-hearted  tear, 

Curses  the  villain,  shudders  at  the  fray, 

And  weeps  before  the  maiden's  wreathed  bier. 

Yet  once  familiar  with  the  changeful  show, 

He  starts  no  longer  at  a  brandished  knife, 

But,  his  heart  chastened  at  the  sight  of  woe, 

Ponders  the  mirrored  sorrows  of  his  life. 

So  tutored  too,  I  watch  the  moving  art 

Of  all  this  magic  and  impassioned  pain 

That  tells  the  story  of  the  human-  heart 

In  a  false  instance,  such  as  poets  feign; 

I  smile,  and  keep  within  the  parchment  furled 

That  prompts  the  passions  of  this  strutting  world. 

O    WORLD,    THOU    CHOOSEST    NOT    THE    BETTER    PART 

O  world,  thou  choosest  not  the  better  parti 
It  is  not  wisdom  to  be  only  wise, 
And  on  the  inward  vision  close  the  eyes, 
But  it  is  wisdom  to  believe  the  heart. 
*  Columbus  found  a  world,  and  had  no  chart 
Save  one  that  faith  deciphered  in  the  skies; 
To  trust  the  soul's  invincible  surmise 
Was  all  his  science  and  his  only  art. 
Our  knowledge  is  a  torch  of  smoky  pine 
That  lights  the  pathway  but  one  step  ahead 
Across  a  void  of  mystery  and  dread. 
Bid,  then,  the  tender  light  of  faith  to  shine 
By  which  alone  the  mortal  heart  is  led 
Unto  the  thinking  of  the  thought  divine. 


Richard  Hovey 

RICHARD  IIOVEY  was  born  May  4,  1864,  at  Normal,  Illinois,  and  graduated  from 
Dartmouth  in  1885.  After  leaving  college,  he  became,  in  rapid  succession,  theo- 
logian, actor,  journalist,  lecturer,  professor  of  English  literature  at  Barnard,  poet  and 
dramatist. 

His  first  volume,  The  Laurel.  An  Ode  (1889),  betrayed  the  over-musical  influence 
of  Lamer  but  gave  promise  of  that  extraordinary  facility  which  often  brought  Hovey 
perilously  close  to  mere  technique.  His  exuberant  virility  found  its  outlet  in  the 
series  of  poems  published  in  collaboration  with  Bliss  Carman:  the  three  volumes  of 
Songs  from  Vagabondia  (1894,  1896,  1900).  Here  he  let  himself  go  completely; 
nothing  remained  sober  or  static.  His  lines  flung  themselves  across  the  page;  danced 
with  intoxicating  abandon;  shouted,  laughed,  and  carried  off  the  reader  in  a  gale 


/26  RICHARD  HOVEY 

of  high  spirits.  The  famous  Stein  Song  is  an  interlude  in  the  midst  of  a  far  finer 
poem  that,  with  its  flavor  of  Whitman,  begins: 

I  said  in  my  heart,  "I  am  sick  of  four  walls  and  a  ceiling. 

I  have  need  of  the  sky. 

I  have  business  with  the  grass. 

I  will  up  and  get  me  away  where  the  hawk  is  wheeling, 

Lone  and  high, 

And  the  slow  clouds  go  by. 

I  will  get  me  away  to  the  waters  that  glass 

The  clouds  as  they  pass.  .  .  ." 

Hovey's  attitude  to  his  art  was  expressed  in  his  own  words  concerning  the  poet:  "It 
is  not  his  mission,"  wrote  Hovey  in  the  Dartmouth  Magazine,  "to  write  elegant 
canzonettas  for  the  delectation  of  the  dilettanti,  but  to  comfort  the  sorrowful  and 
hearten  the  despairing,  to  champion  the  oppressed  and  declare  to  humanity  its  in- 
alienable rights,  to  lay  open  to  the  world  the  heart  of  man — all  its  heights  and 
depths,  all  its  glooms  and  glories,  to  reveal  the  beauty  in  things  and  breathe  into  his 
fellows  a  love  of  it."  This  too  conscious  awareness  of  the  poet's  "mission"  marred 
Hovey's  work;  responding  to  a  program,  he  frequently  ovcrstressed  his  ringing 
enthusiasm,  and  strained  his  muscularity.  But  his  power  was  as  unflagging  as  his 
energy  was  persuasive. 

Some  of  Hovey's  best  work  was  accomplished  without  shouting.  The  little  known 
"Contemporaries"  showed  how  well  he  could  handle  double  portraiture,  antedating 
the  psycho-philosophical  delineations  of  E.  A.  Robinson.  As  he  grew  older,  Hovey 
became  dissatisfied  with  the  wanderlusty  motif  and  its  panacea  of  open  roads  and 
youthful  comradeship.  His  subjects  grew  larger,  his  symbols  were  less  obvious  and 
not  confined  to  "something  potent  brimming  through  the  earth."  The  work  on 
which  he  was  engaged  at  the  time  of  his  death  is  significant;  Launcdot  and  Guene- 
vete:  A  Poem  in  Five  Diamas,  exemplary  in  its  restrained  force. 

Although  the  varied  lyrics  in  Songs  from  Vagabondia  are  the  heartiest  examples 
of  Hovey,  a  representative  collection  of  his  riper  work  may  be  found  in  Along  the 
Ttail  (1898).  Hovey  was  slow  to  mature;  this  volume,  in  conjunction  with  the  un- 
completed Taliesm'  A  Masque,  shows  his  later,  more  intensive  power.  The  mood 
reflected  is  spiritual  rather  than  physical;  the  note  is  high  but  never  shrill.  Besides 
the  later  work,  Along  the  Trail  contains  "Spring"  and  the  stirring  "Comrades"  in 
full. 

Hovey  died,  during  his  thirty-sixth  year,  in  New  York,  February  24,  1900. 

AT  THE  CROSSROADS  Here's  luck! 

You  to  the  left  and  I  to  the  right,  For  we  know  not  where  we  are  ^S- 

For  the  ways  of  men  must  sever—  Whether  we  win  or  whether  we  lose 

And  it  well  may  be  for  a  day  and  a  night,  With  the  hands  that  life  is  dealing, 

And  it  well  may  be  forever.  It  is  not  we  nor  the  ways  we  choose 

But  whether  we  meet  or  whether  we  part  But  the  fall  of  the  cards  that's  sealing. 

(For  our  ways  are  past  our  knowing),  There's  a  fate  in  love  and  a  fate  in  fight, 

A   pledge    from   the    heart   to    its    fellow  And  the  best  of  us  all  go  under — 

heart  And  whether  we're  wrong  or  whether  we're 
On  the  ways  we  all  are  going!  right, 


RICHARD  HOVEY 

We  win,  sometimes,  to  our  wonder. 

Here's  luck' 

That  we  may  not  yet  go  under! 

With  a  steady  swing  and  an  open  brow 

We  have  tramped  the  ways  together, 

But  we're  clasping  hands  at  the  crossroads 

now 

In  the  Fiend's  own  night  for  weather; 
And  whether  we  bleed  or  whether  we  smile 
In  the  leagues  that  lie  before  us 
The  ways  of  life  are  many  a  mile 
And  the  dark  of  Fate  is  o'er  us. 
Here's  luck! 
And  a  cheer  for  the  dark  before  us! 

You  to  the  left  and  I  to  the  right, 

For  the  ways  of  men  must  sever, 

And  it  well  may  be  for  a  day  and  a  night 

And  it  well  may  be  forever' 

But  whether  we  live  or  whether  we  die 

(For  the  end  is  past  our  knowing), 

Here's  two  frank  hearts  and  the  open  sky, 

Be  a  fair  or  an  ill  wind  blowing! 

Here's  luc{! 

In  the  teeth  of  all  winds  blowing. 


UNMANII-EST    DESTINY' 

To  what  new  fates,  my  country,  far 
And  unforeseen  of  foe  or  friend, 


727 

Beneath  what  unexpected  star 
Compelled  to  what  unchosen  end, 

Across  the  sea  that  knows  no  beach, 
The  Admiral  of  Nations  guides 

Thy  blind  obedient  keels  to  reach 
The  harbor  where  thy  future  rides' 

The  guns  that  spoke  at  Lexington 
Knew  not  that  God  was  planning  then 

The  trumpet  word  of  Jefferson 
To  bugle  forth  the  rights  of  men. 

To  them  that  wept  and  cursed  Bull  Run, 
What  was  it  but  despair  and  shame? 

Who  saw  behind  the  cloud  the  sun? 
Who  knew  that  God  was  in  the  flame? 

Had  not  defeat  upon  defeat, 

Disaster  on  disaster  come, 
The  slave's  emancipated  feet 

Had  never  marched  behind  the  drum. 

There  is  a  Hand  jhat  bends  our  deeds 
To  mightier  issues  than  we  planned; 

Each  son  that  triumphs,  each  that  bleeds, 
My  country,  serves  Its  dark  command, 

I  do  not  know  beneath  what  sky 
Nor  on  what  seas  shall  be  thy  fate; 

I  only  know  it  shall  be  high, 
I  only  know  it  shall  be  great. 


LOVE    IN    THE    WTNDS 

When  I  am  standing  on  a  mountain  crest, 
Or  hold  the  tiller  in  the  dashing  spray, 
My  love  of  you  leaps  foaming  in  my  breast, 
Shouts  with  the  winds  and  sweeps  to  their  foray. 
My  heart  bounds  with  the  horses  of  the  sea 
And  plunges  in  the  wild  ride  of  the  night, 
Flaunts  in  the  teeth  of  tempest  the  large  glee 
That  rides  out  Fate  and  welcomes  gods  to  fight. 

Ho,  love,  I  laugh  aloud  for  love  of  you, 
Glad  that  our  love  is  fellow  to  rough  weather, — 
No  fretful  orchid  hothouscd  from  the  dew, 
But  hale  and  hardy  as  the  highland  heather, 

Rejoicing  in  the  wind  that  stings  and  thrills, 

Comrade  of  ocean,  playmate  of  the  hills. 

1The  phrase  "manifest  destiny,**  which  came  into  usage  during  the  Spanish-American  War, 
was  meant  to  indicate  America's  paternal  (or,  as  the  opposing  faction  cUimcd,  imperialistic)  mis- 
sion. Hovey  was  one  who  denied  any  but  unselfish  motives  to  the  conduct  of  his  country. 


728 


RICHARD  HOVEY 


COMRADES 

Comrades,  pour  the  wmc  tonight, 
"  For  the  parting  is  with  dawn. 
Oh,  the  clink  of  cups  together, 
With  the  daylight  coming  on! 

Greet  the  morn 

With  a  double  horn, 
When  strong  men  drink  together  ' 

Comrades,  gird  your  swords  tonight, 

For  the  battle  is  with  dawn. 
Oh,  the  clash  of  shields  together, 
With  the  triumph  coming  on! 
Greet  the  foe 
And  lay  him  low, 
When  strong  men  fight  together. 

Comrades,  watch  the  tides  tonight, 

For  the  sailing  is  with  dawn. 
Oh,  to  face  the  spray  together, 
With  the  tempest  coming  on' 
Greet  the  Sea     - 
With  a  shout  of  glee, 
When  strong  men  roam  together. 

Comrades,  give  a  cheer  tonight, 

For  the  dying  is  with  dawn. 
Oh,  to  meet  the  stars  together, 
With  the  silence  coming  on' 
Greet  the  end 
As  a  friend  a  friend, 
When  strong  men  die  together. 


CONTEMPORARIES 

"A  barbcrcd  woman's  man," — yes,  so 
He  seemed  to  me  a  twelvemonth  since; 
And  so  he  may  be — let  it  go — 
Admit  his  flaws — we  need  not  wince 
To  find  our  noblest  not  all  great. 
What  of  it?  He  is  still  the  prince, 
And  we  the  pages  of  his  state. 

The  world  applauds  his  words;  his  fame 

Is  noised  wherever  knowledge  be; 

Even  the  trader  hears  his  name, 

As  one  far  inland  hears  the  sea; 

The  lady  quotes  him  to  the  beau 

Across  the  cup  of  Russian  tea; 

They  know  him  and  they  do  not  know. 


I  know  him.  In  the  nascent  years 

Men's  eyes  shall  see  him  as  one  crowned; 

His  voice  shall  gather  in  their  ears 

With  each  new  age  prophetic  sound; 

And  you  and  I  and  all  the  rest, 

Whose  brows  today  are  laurel-bound, 

Shall  be  but  plumes  upon  his  crest. 

A  year  ago  this  man  was  poor, — 

This  Alfred  whom  the  nations  praise; 

He  stood  a  beggar  at  my  door 

For  one  mere  word  to  help  him  raise 

From  fainting  limbs  and  shoulders  bent 

The  burden  of  the  weary  days; 

And  I  withheld  it — and  he  went. 

I  knew  him  then,  as  I  know  now, 
Our  largest  heart,  our  loftiest  mind; 
Yet  for  the  curls  upon  his  brow 
And  for  his  lisp,  I  could  not  line) 
The  helping  word,  the  cheering  touch. 
Ah,  to  be  just,  as  well  as  kind, — 
It  costs  so  little  and  so  much' 

It  seemed  unmanly  in  my  sight 

That  he,  whose  spirit  was  so  strong 

To  lead  the  blind  world  to  the  light, 

Should  look  so  like  the  mincing  throng 

Who  advertise  the  tailor's  art. 

It  angered  me — I  did  him  wrong — 

I  grudged  my  groat  and  shut  my  heart. 

I  might  have  been  the  prophet's  friend, 
Helped  him  who  is  to  help  the  world' 
Now,  when  the  striving  is  at  end, 
The  reek-stained  battle-banners  furled, 
And  the  age  hears  its  muster-call, 
Then  I,  because  his  hair  was  curled, 
I  shall  have  lost  my  chance — that's  all. 


A    STEIN    SONG 

(fwm  ''Spring") 

Give  a  rouse,  then,  in  the  Maytime 

For  a  life  that  knows  no  fear! 
Turn  night-time  into  daytime 
With  the  sunlight  of  good  cheer! 
For  it's  always  fair  weather 
When  good  fellows  get  together, 
With  a  stem  on  the  table  and  a  good  song 
ringing  clear. 


RICHARD  HOFEY  /2? 

When  the  wind  conies  up  from  Cuba,  And  it's  birds  of  a  feather 

And  the  birds  are  on  the  wing,  When  we  all  get  together, 

And  our  hearts  are  patting  juba  With  a  stein  on  the  table  and  a  heart  without 

To  the  banjo  of  the  spring,  a  care. 
Then  it's  no  wonder  whether 

The  boys  will  get  together,  For  wc  know  lhc  wor,c,  ^    lorjou^ 
With  a  stein  on  the  table  and  a  cheer  for         And  thc  goal  a  goldcn  t}m% 

everything.  And  that  (;od  ]s  m)f  ccnsorious 

When  his  children  ha\c  their  fling; 

For  we're  all  frank-and-twenty  And  lite  slips  its  tether 

When  the  spring  is  in  thc  air;  When  the  boys  get  together, 

And  we've  faith  and  hope  a-plenty,  With  a  stein  on  the  table  in  the  fellowship  of 

And  we\e  hie  and  love  to  spare:  spring. 


William  Vaughn  Moody 

WILLIAM  VAUGHN  MOODY  was  born  in  Spencer,  Indiana,  July  8,  1869,  and  was 
educated  at  Harvard.  Alter  graduation,  he  spent  the  remaining  eighteen  years 
of  his  life  in  travel  and  intensive  study— he  taught,  for  eight  years,  at  the  Univer- 
sity ol  Chicago — his  death  coming  at  the  very  height  of  his  creative  power. 

Thc  Masque  of  Judgment,  his  first  work,  was  published  in  1900.  A  richer  and 
more  representative  collection  appeared  thc  year  following;  in  Poems  (1901) 
Moody  effected  that  mingling  of  challenging  lyricism  and  spiritual  philosophy  which 
became  more  and  more  insistent.  Throughout  his  career,  and  particularly  in  such 
lines  as  the  hotly  expostulating  "On  a  Soldier  Fallen  in  the  Philippines"  and  the 
uncompleted  "The  Death  of  Eve,"  Moody  successfully  achieved  the  union  of  poet  and 
preacher.  "Gloucester  Moors"  was  an  outcry  against  the  few  exploiting  the  many; 
"The  Quarry"  and  "An  Ode  in  Time  of  Hesitation"  were  impassioned  and  pro- 
phetic. His  last  extended  works  were  little  read;  their  too  crowded  details  and 
difficult  diction  prevented  them  from  becoming  popular.  Further,  Moody  did  not 
offer  a  happy  solution  of  life  as  was  attempted  by  the  vague  socialism  ol  Markham 
or  the  reckless  optimism  of  Hovey;  he  maintained,  rather,  that  men's  spirits  were 
"plagued,  impatient  things,  all  dream  and  unaccountable  desire."  Creation,  he  felt, 
was  moving  toward  some  far  end,  but  he  never  presumed  to  know  the  goal,  he 
would  not  even  declare  of  our  destiny:  "I  only  know  it  shall  be  great."  Man,  to 
Moody,  must  make  himself  greater  before  he  could  claim  to  be  the  object  of  great 
purposes. 

Moody's  prose  play  JJuLJjmLjtivide  (1907)  was  extremely  successful  when 
produced  by  Henry  Miller.  The  faith  Healer  (1909),  another  play  in  prose,  because 
of  its  more  exalted  tone,  did  not  win  the  favor  of  the  theater-going  public.  A  com- 
plete edition  of  The  Poems  and  Poetic  Dtamas  of  William  Vaughn  Moody  was 
published  m  1912  in  two  volumes. 

In  the  summer  of  1909  Moody  was  stricken  with  the  illness  from  which  he  never 


'30 


WILLIAM  VAUGHN  MOODY 


recovered.  Had  he  lived  he  might  well  have  become  one  of  the  major  poets  of  his 
country.  He  died  in  October,  1910. 


PANDORA    S    SONG 

(from  "The  Fire-Bnngcr") 

I  stood  within  the  heart  of  God; 
It  seemed  a  place  that  I  had  known: 
(I  was  blood-sister  to  the  clod, 
Blood-brother  to  the  stone.) 

I  found  my  love  and  labor  there, 
My  house,  my  raiment,  meat  and  wine, 
My  ancient  rage,  my  old  despair, — 
Yea,  all  things  that  were  mine. 

I  saw  the  spring  and  summer  pass, 
The  trees  grow  bare,  and  winter  come; 
All  was  the  same  as  once  it  was 
Upon  my  hills  at  home. 

Then  suddenly  in  my  own  heart 
I  felt  God  walk  and  gaze  about; 
He  spoke;  his  words  seemed  held  apart 
With  gladness  and  with  doubt. 

"Here  is  my  meat  and  wmc,"  He  said, 
"My  love,  my  toil,  my  ancient  care; 
Here  is  my  cloak,  my  book,  my  bed, 
And  here  my  old  despair. 

"Here  are  my  seasons:  winter,  spring, 
Summer  the  same,  and  autumn  spills 
The  fruits  I  look  for;  everything 
As  on  my  heavenly  hills." 


GLOUCESTER    MOORS 

A  mile  behind  is  Gloucester  town 
Where  the  fishing  fleets  put  in, 
A  mile  ahead  the  land  dips  down 
And  the  woods  and  farms  begin. 
Here  where  the  moors  stretch  free 
In  the  high  blue  afternoon, 
Are  the  marching  sun  and  talking  sea, 
And  the  racing  winds  that  whdd  and  flee 
On  the  flying  heels  of  June. 

Jill-o'er-the-ground  is  purple  blue, 
Blue  is  the  quaker-maid, 


The  wild  geranium  holds  its  dew 

Long  in  the  bowlder's  shade. 

Wax-red  hangs  the  cup 

From  the  huckleberry  boughs, 

In  barberry  bells  the  gray  moths  sup, 

Or  where  the  choke-cherry  lifts  high  up 

Sweet  bowls  for  their  carouse. 

Over  the  shelf  of  the  sandy  cove 

Beach-peas  blossom  late. 

By  copse  and  cliff  the  swallows  rove 

Each  calling  to  his  mate. 

Seaward  the  sea-gulls  go, 

And  the  land-birds  all  are  here: 

That  green-gold  flash  was  a  vireo, 

And   yonder   flame    where    the   marsh-flags 

grow 
Was  a  scarlet  tanagcr. 

This  earth  is  not  the  steadfast  place 
We  landsmen  build  upon; 
From  deep  to  deep  she  varies  pace, 
And  while  she  comes  is  gone. 
Beneath  my  feet  I  feel 
Her  smooth  bulk  heave  and  dip; 
With  velvet  plunge  and  soft  uprcel 
She  swings  and  steadies  to  her  keel 
Like  a  gallant,  gallant  ship. 

These  summer  clouds  she  sets  for  sail, 
The  sun  is  her  masthead  light, 
She  tows  the  moon  like  a  pinnace  frail 
Where  her  phosphor  wake  churns  bright. 
Now  hid,  now  looming  clear, 
On  the  face  of  the  dangerous  blue 
The  star  fleets  tack  and  wheel  and  veer, 
But  on,  but  on  does  the  old  earth  steer 
As  if  her  port  she  knew. 

God,  dear  God!  Does  she  know  her  port, 

Though  she  goes  so  far  about ? 

Or  blind  astray,  does  she  make  her  sport 

To  brazen  and  chance  it  out? 

I  watched  when  her  captains  passed: 

She  were  better  captainless. 

Men  in  the  cabin,  before  the  mast, 

But  some  were  reckless  and  some  aghast, 

And  some  sat  gorged  at  mess. 


WILLIAM  VAUGHN  MOODY  137 

By  her  battened  hatch  I  leaned  and  caught  Scattering  wide  or  blown  in  ranks, 

Sounds  from  the  noisome  hold, —  Yellow  and  white  and  brown, 

Cursing  and  sighing  of  souls  distraught  Boats  and  boats  from  the  fishing  banks 

And  cries  too  sad  to  be  told.  Come  home  to  Gloucester  town. 

Then  I  strove  to  go  down  and  see;  There  is  cash  to  purse  and  spend, 

But  they  said,  "Thou  art  not  of  us'"  There  are  wives  to  be  embraced, 

I  turned  to  those  on  the  deck  with  me  Hearts  to  borrow  and  hearts  to  lend, 

And  cried,  "Give  help!"  But  they  said,  "Let  And  hearts  to  take  and  keep  to  the  end,— 

be:  O  little  sails,  make  haste' 
Our  ship  sails  faster  thus." 

But  thou,  \ast  outbound  ship  of  souls, 

Jill-o'er-the-ground  is  purple  blue,  What  harbor  town  ioi  thcc? 

Blue  is  the  quaker-maid,  What  shapes,  when  thy  arriving  tolls, 

The    alder-clump   where    the   brook   comes  Shall  crowd  the  banks  to  sec? 

through  Shall  all  the  happy  shipmates  then 

Breeds  cresses  in  its  shade.  Stand  singing  brotherly? 

To  be  out  of  the  moiling  street  Or  shall  a  haggard  ruthless  few 

With  its  swelter  and  its  sin'  Warp  her  over  and  bring  her  to, 

Who  has  given  to  me  this  sweet,      .  While  the  many  broken  souls  of  men 

And  given  my  brother  dust  to  eat?  Fester  down  in  the  slaver's  pen, 

And  when  will  his  wage  come  in"5  And  nothing  to  say  or  do? 


ROAD-HYMN    FOR    THE    START 

Leave  the  early  bells  at  chime, 

Leave  the  kindled  hearth  to  blaze, 

Leave  the  trclhsed  panes  where  children  linger  out  the  waking-time, 
Leave  the  forms  of  sons  and  lathers  trudging  through  the  misty  ways, 
Leave  the  sounds  of  mothers  taking  up  their  sweet,  laborious  days. 

Pass  them  by'  even  while  our  soul 

Yearns  to  them  with  keen  distress. 

Unto  them  a  part  is  given;  we  will  strive  to  sec  the  whole. 
Dear  shall  be  the  banquet  table  where  their  singing  spirits  press; 
Dearer  be  our  sacred  hunger,  and  our  pilgrim  loneliness. 

We  have  felt  the  ancient  swaying 

Of  the  earth  before  the  sun, 

On  the  darkened  marge  of  midnight  heard  sidereal  rivers  playing; 
Rash  it  was  to  bathe  our  souls  there,  but  we  plunged  and  all  was  done. 
That  is  lives  and  lives  behind  us — lo,  our  journey  is  begun' 

Careless  where  our  face  is  set, 

Let  us  take  the  open  way, 

What  we  are  no  tongue  has  told  us:  Errand-goers  who  forget? 
Soldiers  heedless  of  their  harry?  Pilgrim  people  gone  astray? 
We  have  heard  a  voice  cry  "Wander!"  That  v/as  all  we  heard  it  say. 

Ask  no  more:  'Tis  much,  'tis  much! 
Down  the  road  the  day-star  calls; 
Touched  with  change  in  the  wide  heavens»  like  a  leaf  the  frost  winds  touch, 


I32  WILLIAM   VAUGHN  MOODY 

Flames  the  failing  moon  a  moment,  ere  it  shrivels  white  and  falls; 
Hid  aloft,  a  wild  throat  holdeth  sweet  and  sweeter  intervals. 

Leave  him  still  to  ease  in  song 

Half  his  little  heart's  unrest: 

Speech  is  his,  but  we  may  journey  toward  the  life  for  which  we  long. 
God,  who  gives  the  bird  its  anguish,  maketh  nothing  manifest, 
But  upon  our  lifted  foreheads  pours  the  boon  of  endless  quest. 


FROM         JETSAM 

Once  at  a  simple  turning  of  the  way 

I  met  God  walking;  and  although  the  dawn 

Was  large  behind  Him,  and  the  morning  stars 

Circled  and  sang  about  his  face  as  birds 

About  the  fieldward  morning  cottager, 

My  coward  heart  said  faintly,  "Let  us  haste! 

Day  grows  and  it  is  far  to  market-town." 

Once  where  I  lay  in  darkness  after  fight, 

Sore  smitten,  thrilled  a  little  thread  of  song 

Searching  and  searching  all  my  muffled  sense 

Until  it  shook  sweet  pangs  through  all  my  blood, 

And  I  beheld  one  globed  in  ghostly  fire 

Singing,  star-strong,  her  golden  canticle; 

And  her  mouth  sang,  "The  hosts  of  Plate  roll  past, 

A  dance  of  dust-motes  in  the  sliding  sun; 

Love's  battle  comes  on  the  wide  wings  of  storm, 

From  cast  to  west  one  legion'  Wilt  thou  strive?" 

Then,  since  the  splendor  of  her  sword-bright  gaze 

Was  heavy  on  me  with  yearning  and  with  scorn, 

My  sick  heart  muttered,  "Ycax  the  little  strife, 

Yet  see,  the  grievous  wounds!  I  fain  would  sleep." 

O  heart,  shalt  thou  not  once  be  strong  to  go 
Where  all  sweet  throats  are  calling^  once  be  brave 
To  slake  with  deed  thy  dumbness ?  Let  us  go 
The  path  her  singing  face  looms  low  to  point, 
Pendulous,  blanched  with  longing,  shedding  flames 
Of  silver  on  the  brown  grope  of  the  flood; 
For  all  my  spirit's  soilure  is  put  by 
And  all  my  body's  soilure,  lacking  now 
But  the  last  lustral  sacrament  of  death 
To  make  me  clean  for  those  near-searching  eyes 
That  question  yonder  whether  all  be  well, 
And  pause  a  little  ere  they  dare  rejoice. 

Question  and  be  thou  answered,  passionate  face! 
For  I  am  worthy,  worthy  now  at  last 
After  so  long  unwoith;  strong  now  at  last 
To  give  myself  to  beauty  and  be  saved. 


WILLIAM  VAUGHN  MOODY  133 

ON  A  SOLDIER  FALLEN  IN  THE  PHILIPPINES1 

Streets  of  the  roaring  town, 

Hush  for  him;  hush,  be  still! 

He  comes,  who  was  stricken  down 

Doing  the  word  of  our  will. 

Hush'  Let  him  have  his  state. 

Give  him  his  soldier's  crown, 

The  grists  of  trade  can  wait 

Their  grinding  at  the  mill. 

But  he  cannot  wait  for  his  honor,  now  the  trumpet  has  been  blown. 
Wreathe  pride  now  for  his  granite  brow,  lay  love  on  his  breast  of  stone. 

Toll'  Let  the  great  bells  toll 

Till  the  clashing  air  is  dim, 

Did  we  wrong  this  parted  soul? 

We  will  make  it  up  to  him. 

Toll'  Let  him  never  guess 

What  work  we  sent  him  to. 

Laurel,  laurel,  yes. 

He  did  what  we  bade  him  do. 

Praise,  and  never  a  whispered  hint  but  the  fight  he  fought  was  good; 
Never  a  word  that  the  blood  on  his  sword  was  his  country's  own  hcart's-blood. 

A  flag  for  a  soldier's  bier 

Who  dies  that  his  land  may  live; 

O  banners,  banners  here, 

That  he  doubt  not  nor  misgive  I 

That  he  heed  not  from  the  tomb 

The  evil  days  draw  near 

When  the  nation  robed  in  gloom 

With  its  faithless  past  shall  strive. 

Let  him  never  dream  that  his  bullet's  scream  went  wide  of  its  island  mark, 
Home  to  the  heart  of  his  darling  land  where  she  stumbled  and  sinned  in  the  darkc 


George  Sterling 


EORGE  STERLING  was  born  at  Sag  Harbor,  New  York,  December  i,  1869,  and 
educated  at  various  private  schools  in  the  Eastern  States.  He  moved  to  the  Far 
West  about  1895  and  lived  in  California  until,  discouraged  and  dipsomaniac,  he 
met  death  by  his  own  hand  in  1926. 

Of  Sterling's  ten  volumes  of  poetry,  The  Testimony  of  the  Suns  (1903),  A  Wine 
of  Wizardry  (1908)  and  The  House  of  Orchids  and  Other  Poems  (1911)  are  the 
most  characteristic.  Ambrose  Bierce  was  the  first  to  hail  Sterling  with  what  now 

1  Compare  the  point  of  view  expressed  in  Hovey's  "Unmamfcst  Destiny"  on  page  128.  This 
poem  was  likewise  written  at  the  time  of  the  Spanish-American  War. 


j]4  GEORGE  STERLING 

seems  extravagant  praise;  he  declared  that  A  Wine  of  Wizardry  contained  some  of 
the  greatest  lines  in  English  poetry. 

As  the  titles  of  Sterling's  volumes  indicate,  this  is  poetry  of  a  flamboyant  and 
rhetorical  type,  of  luxuriant  sentences  and  emotions  declared  in  "the  grand  manner." 
Yet  Sterling  added  vigor  to  his  ornate  tropes.  He  was  not  always  hurling  suns 
about,  sweeping  the  skies  with  orchids,  strange  gods  and  exotic  stars.  His  extrava- 
gances, partly  temperamental,  partly  climatic,  are  Calitorman — as  he  intended  them 
to  lie.  He  was  not  at  ease  when  attempting  to  curb  his  grandiose  periods;  but  a  few 
of  his  simpler  verses,  though  not  in  his  most  familiar  vein,  show  what  Sterling  might 
have  accomplished  with  more  discipline.  The  least  memorable  poems  are  not  with- 
out a  redeeming  line. 

A  comprehensive  Selected  Poems  was  published  in  1923. 


THE    BLACK    VULTURE 

Aloof  upon  the  day's  unmeasured  dome, 

He  holds  unshared  the  silence  of  the  sky. 

Far  dow  n  his  bleak,  relentless  eyes  desc/y 
The  eagle's  empire  and  the  falcon's  home — 
Far  down,  the  galleons  of  sunset  roam; 

His  hazards  on  the  sea  of  morning  he; 

Serene,  he  hears  the  broken  tempest  sigh 
Where  cold  sierras  gleam  like  scattered  foam. 

And  least  of  all  he  holds  the  human  swarm — 
Unwitting  now  that  envious  men  prepare 

To  make  their  dream  and  its  fulfillment  one, 
When,  poised  above  the  caldrons  of  the  storm, 
Their  hearts,  contemptuous  of  death,  shall  dare 
His  roads  between  the  thunder  and  the  sun. 


THE   MASTER   MARINER  The  thrush  at  dawn  beguiles  my  glade, 

* ,            1  .          111                  r         i  And  once,  'tis  said,  I  woke  to  hear. 
My  grandsirc  sailed  three  years  from  home 

And  slew  unmoved  the  sounding  whale:  M           dsifc  ^  hw         {c  ^ 

Here  on  a  windless  beach  I  roam  *£  j        h                 {^      men: 

And  watch  far  out  the  hardy  sail.  Behold  ob*dientPto  myPwrist 

The  lions  of  the  surf  that  cry  A  graY  gullWeather  for  my  pen! 

Upon  this  lion-colored  shore 

On  reefs  of  midnight  met  his  eye:  UPon  my  g™iclsirc  s  leathern  cheek 

He  knew  their  fangs  as  I  their  roar.  n  Five  zones  their  bitter  bronze  had  set: 

Some  day  their  hazards  I  will  seek, 

My  grandsirc  sailed  uncharted  seas,  I  promise  me  at  times.  Not  yet. 

And  toll  of  all  their  leagues  he  took: 

I  scan  the  shallow  bays  at  ease,  I  think  my  grandsire  now  would  turn 

And  tell  their  colors  m  a  book.  A  mild  but  speculative  eye 

On  me,  my  pen  and  its  concern, 

The  anchor-chains  his  music  made  Then  gaze  again  to  sea — and  sigh. 

And  wind  in  shrouds  and  running-gear: 


GEORGE  STERLING  i35 

THE    NIGHT    OF    GODS 

Their  mouths  have  drunken  the  eternal  wine — 
The  draught  that  Baal  in  oblivion  sips. 
Unseen  about  their  courts  the  adder  slips, 
Unheard  the  sucklings  of  the  leopard  whine; 
The  toad  has  found  a  resting-place  divine, 
And  bloats  in  stupor  between  Ammon's  lips. 
O  Carthage  and  the  unreturnmg  ships, 
The  fallen  pinnacle,  the  shifting  Sign ' 

Lo!  when  I  hear  from  voiceless  court  and  fane 
Time's  adoration  of  eternity, — 
The  cry  of  kingdoms  past  and  gods  undone, — 
*  I  stand  as  one  whose  feet  at  noontide  gam 
A  lonely  shore;  who  feels  his  soul  set  free, 
And  hears  the  blind  sea  chanting  to  the  sun. 


Edwin  Arlington  Robinson 

EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON  was  born  December  22,  1869,  in  the  village  of  Head 
Tide,  Maine.  When  he  was  still  a  child,  the  Robinson  family  moved  to  the 
near-by  town  of  Gardiner,  which  figures  in  Robinson's  poetry  as  "Tilbury  Town." 
In  1891  he  entered  Harvard  College,  but  left  in  189$.  A  little  collection  of  verse 
(The  Torrent  and  the  Night  Before)  was  privately  printed  in  1896  and  the  follow- 
ing year  much  of  it  was  incorporated  with  other  work  in  The  Childtcn  of  the  Night 
(1897),  a  first  volume  which  contains  some  of  Robinson's  most  quoted  verse. 

Somewhat  later,  Robinson  was  struggling  in  various  capacities  to  make  a  living  in 
New  York,  five  years  passing  before  the  publication  of  Captain  Ctaig  (1902).  This 
richly  detailed  narrative,  recalling  Browning's  method,  increased  Robinson's  audi- 
ence, and  his  work  was  brought  to  the  attention  of  Theodore  Roosevelt  (then  Presi- 
dent of  the  United  States),  who  became  interested  in  the  poet,  at  the  time  earning 
a  living  as  an  inspector  in  the  New  York  Subway,  then  in  course  of  construction. 
In  1904,  President  Roosevelt  offered  him  a  clerkship  in  the  New  York  Custom 
House.  Robinson  held  this  position  from  1905  to  1910,  leaving  it  the  same  year 
which  marked  the  appearance  of  his  volume,  The  Town  Down  the  River.  Robin- 
son's three  books,  up  to  this  time,  showed  his  clean,  firmly  drawn  quality,  but,  in 
spite  of  their  excellences,  they  seem  little  more  than  a  succession  of  preludes  for  the 
dynamic  volume  that  was  to  establish  him  in  the  first  rank  of  American  poets. 
The  Man  Against  the  S^yt  in  many  ways  Robinson's  fullest  and  most  penetrating 
work,  appeared  in  1916.  This  was  followed  by  The  Three  Taverns  (1920),  a  less 
arresting  but  equally  concentrated,  many  voiced  collection  of  poems. 

In  all  these  books  there  is  manifest  a  searching  for  the  light  beyond  illusion.  But 
Robinson's  transcendentalism  is  no  mere  emotional  escape;  his  temper  subjects  the 
slightest  phrase  to  critical  analysis,  his  intuitions  are  supported — or  scrutinized — by 
a  vigorous  intellectuality.  Purely  as  a  psychological  portrait  painter,  Robinson  has 


/j6  EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

given  American  literature  an  entire  gallery  of  memora&fe  figures:  Richard  Cory,  who 
"glittered  when  he  walked,"  gnawing  his  dark  heart  while  he  fluttered  pulses  with 
his  apparent  good  fortune;  Miniver  Cheevy,  frustrate  dreamer,  sighing  "for  what 
was  not";  Aaron  Stark,  the  miser  with  eyes  "like  little  dollars  in  the  dark";  the 
nameless  mother  in  "The  Gift  of  God,"  transmuting  her  mediocrity  of  a  son  into 
a  shining  demigod;  Bewick  Finzer,  the  wreck  of  wealth,  coming  for  his  pittance, 
"familiar  as  an  old  mistake,  and  futile  as  regret,"  Luke  Havergal,  Cliff  Klingenhagen, 
Reuben  Bright,  Annandale,  the  tippling  Mr.  Flood — they  persist  in  the  mind  more 
vividly  than  most  living  people.  Such  sympathetic  illuminations  reveal  Robinson's 
sensitive  power,  especially  in  his  proiection  of  the  apparent  failures  of  life.  Indeed, 
much  of  Robinson's  work  seems  a  protest,  a  criticism  by  implication,  of  that  type  of 
standardized  success  which  so  much  of  the  world  worships.  Frustration  and  defeat 
are  like  an  organ-point  heard  below  the  varying  music  of  his  verse;  failure  is  almost 
glorified  in  his  pages. 

Technically,  Robinson  is  as  precise  as  he  is  dexterous.  He  is,  in  company  with 
Frost,  a  master  of  the  slowly  diminished  ending.  But  he  is  capable  of  cadences  as 
rich  as  that  which  ends  "The  Gift  of  God,"  as  pungent  as  the  climax  of  "Calvary," 
as  brilliantly  fanciful  as  the  sestet  of  his  sonnet,  "The  Sheaves,"  as  muted  but  sus- 
tained as  the  finale  of  "Eros  Turannos"  which  might  have  been  composed  by  a  more 
controlled  Swinburne. 

There  is  never  a  false  image  or  a  blurred  line  in  any  of  these  verses  which,  while 
adhering  to  the  strictest  models  and  executed  according  to  traditional  forms,  are 
always  fresh  and  surprising.  It  is  interesting  to  observe  how  the  smoothness  of  his 
rhymes,  playing  against  the  hard  outlines  of  his  verse,  emphasizes  the  epigrammatic 
strength  of  poems  like  "The  Gift  of  God,"  that  magnificent  modern  ballad  "John 
Gorham,"  "For  a  Dead  Lady,"  and  "The  Master,"  one  of  the  finest  evocations  of 
Lincoln  which  is,  at  the  same  time,  a  bitter  commentary  on  the  commercialism  of 
the  times  and  the  "shopman's  test  of  age  and  worth." 

Robinson's  blank  verse  is  scarcely  less  individual.  It  is  astringent,  personal,  packed 
with  the  instant.  In  "Ben  Jonson  Entertains  a  Man  from  Stratford"  we  have  the 
clearest  and  most  human  portrait  of  Shakespeare  ever  attempted;  the  lines  run  as 
fluently  as  good  conversation,  as  inevitably  as  a  perfect  melody.  In  his  rcammations 
of  the  Arthurian  legends,  Metlin  (1917),  Launcelot  (1920),  Tristram  (1927),  Rob- 
inson, shaming  the  tea-table  idyls  of  Tennyson,  has  colored  the  tale  with  somber 
reflections  of  the  collapse  of  old  orders,  the  darkness  of  an  age  in  ashes. 

Avon's  Harvest,  which  the  author  has  called  "a  dime  novel  in  verse,"  a  study  of 
a  fear-haunted,  hate-driven  man,  appeared  in  1921.  In  the  same  year  the  Macmillan 
Company  issued  his  Collected  Poems,  which  received  the  Pulitzer  Prize  for  1921 
and  which  was  enlarged  in  1929.  Subsequent  volumes  strengthened  his  admirers' 
convictions  and  disproved  any  fears  that  Robinson  might  have  "written  himself  out." 
Roman  Battholow  (1923)  is  a  single  poem  of  almost  two  hundred  pages;  a  dramatic 
and  introspective  narrative  in  blank  verse.  The  Man  Who  Died  Twice  (1924), 
which  was  awarded  the  Pulitzer  Prize  for  that  year,  is  likewise  one  long  poem:  a 
tale  which  is  a  cross  between  a  grotesque  recital  and  inspired  metaphysics.  Curiously 
enough,  the  mixture  is  one  of  Robinson's  greatest  triumphs;  none  of  his  portraits, 
either  miniatures  or  full-length  canvases,  has  given  us  a  profounder  insight  of  a 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON  iff 

tortured  soul  than  this  of  Fernando  Nash,  "the  king  who  lost  his  crown  before  he 
had  it." 

Dionysus  in  Dotfbt  (1925)  begins  and  ends  with  a  caustic  arraignment  of  our 
mechanistic  civilization,  and  is  primarily  a  scornful  and  caret  ully  premeditated  con- 
demnation: of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  an  attack  which  never  descends  to 
polemics  or  political  diatribe.  Robinson's  ironic  accents  lift  every  phrase  above  the 
argumentative  matter;  the  darkest  of  his  doubts  are  illumined  by  "the  salvage  of  a 
smile."  Besides  two  other  longish  poems,  this  volume  includes  eighteen  sonnets  which 
again  display  Robinson's  supremacy  in  the  form.  Time  and  again,  he  packs  huge 
scenes  into  fourteen  lines;  if  sonnets  can  assume  the  propoition  ot  dramatic  narra- 
tives, Robinson's  have  achieved  the  almost  impossible  teat. 

Possibly  the  fact  that  Robinson  had  already  won  the  Pulitzer  Prize  twice,  possibly 
the  increasing  interest  of  his  work  may  have  accounted  for  his  increased  audience. 
Not  even  his  most  enthusiastic  admirers  awaited  the  reception  accorded  to  Tnstrarn 
(1927).  Adopted  by  the  most  prominent  book-club  as  its  "book-of-the-month," 
awarded  unstinted  praise  and  the  Pulitzer  Prize  for  the  third  time,  it  outsold  most 
"best-selling"  novels.  This  was  something  of  a  phenomenon,  for  Tnsttam  was  not 
only  a  single  poem  of  over  forty  thousand  words,  it  was  Robinson's  most  intricate 
and  knotted  work.  But  it  was  no  mere  problem  in  involution;  Robinson,  as  though 
reacting  against  the  charge  of  Puritanism,  abandoned  himself  to  a  drama  passionate 
and  headlong. 

Calender's  House  (1929)  was  scarcely  less  esteemed.  Formerly  regarded  as  a  poet's 
poet,  the  later  volumes  established  Robinson  in  popular  favor,  no  matter  irom  what 
epoch  he  chose  his  theme.  Ttisttam  was  medieval,  Calender's  House  was  modern. 
Like  Avon's  Hat  vest  and  Roman  Battholow,  the  latter  was  melodrama  glorified,  but 
sharper  and  tenser  than  its  predecessors.  Both  renewed  the  inevitable — and  laf  c — 
comparisons.  Robinson's  manner  was  likened  to  Browning's,  his  matter  (particu- 
larly in  the  Arthurian  tales)  to  Tennyson's.  The  comparison  to  Browning,  though 
superficial  and  inaccurate,  is  at  least  comprehensible.  The  author  of  Mahn,  like 
the  author  of  Sordcllo,  delights  in  subtly  psychological  portraiture,  in  the  half- 
withheld  inner  drama,  in  the  shift  of  suspensions  and  nuances  of  tension.  But  where 
Browning  is  forthright,  Robinson  is  tangential;  where  Browning  is  lavish  with 
imagery  and  flaring  interjections,  Robinson  is  sparse  in  metaphor  and  so  economic 
with  words  that  almost  every  phrase  seems  twisted  and  wrung  of  everything  except 
its  essential  meaning.  But  the  principal  dissimilarity  lies  in  their  Weltanschauung, 
here  they  are  diametrically  opposed.  Where  Browning  regards  the  universe  compact 
of  sweetness  and  light,  Robinson  observes  a  scheme  whose  chief  components  are  bit- 
terness and  blight;  the  realm  where  "God's  in  his  heaven,  all's  right  with  the  world" 
becomes  (as  in  the  significantly  entitled  The  Man  Against  the  S{y)*a  place  where 

He  may  go  forward  like  a  stoic  Roman 
Where  pangs  and  terrors  in  his  pathway  lie — 
Or,  seizing  the  swift  logic  of  a  woman, 
Curse  God  and  die. 

Although  Robinson  was  accused  o'f  holding  consistently  a  negative  attitude  toward 
life,  his  poetry  reveals  a  restless,  uncertain,  but  persistent  search  for  moral  values. 
This  quest — and  questioning — of  ultimates  runs  through  his  work  as  it  ran  through 


I38  EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

an  age  no  longer  satisfied  with  arid  skepticism.  It  is  significant  that  the  same  year 
which  disclosed  Eliot  turning  to  a  faith  beyond  intellect  showed  Robinson  driving 
past  reason  to  find 

.  .  .  There  must  be  God;  or  if  not  God,  a  purpose  and  a  law. 
The  conclusion  of  his  sonnet  to  Crabbe  might  well  be  applied  to  him: 

Whether  or  not  we  read  him,  we  can  feel 
From  time  to  time  the  vigor  of  his  name 
Against  us  like  a  finger  for  the  shame 
And  emptiness  of  what  our^ouls  reveal 
In  books  that  are  as  altars  where  we  kneel 
To  consecrate  the  flicker,  not  the  flame. 

After  1928  Robinson's  poetry  tended  to  become  repetitious  and  prolix.  Writing  for 
an  income  and  fearing  the  future,  he  felt  it  incumbent  upon  him  to  write  an  annual 
volume.  Each  year  for  seven  years,  until  the  very  month  of  his  death,  he  planned 
and  issued  a  narrative  poem  in  which  personal  as  well  as  physical  fatigue  was 
increasingly  evident.  The  Glory  of  the  Nightingales  (1930)  is  a  melancholy  tragedy 
which  suffers  from  dryncss  of  thought  and  atrophy  of  emotion.  Matthias  at  the 
Door  (1931)  is  another  gloomy  study  which  exhibits  the  author's  narrowing  limita- 
tions— the  dark,  deliberate  idiom  spoken  indiscriminately  by  all  the  characters,  the 
lack  of  life  in  any  of  the  diamatis  personae  who  function  only  as  disembodied  intel- 
lects in  a  state  of  continually  painful  thought,  and  a  sense  of  hopeless  defeatism. 
Nlcodemus  (1932)  attempts  to  revive  earlier  spirits,  but  the  summoned  Annandale, 
Ponce  dc  Leon,  and  Toussaint  L'Ouverture  are  little  more  than  garrulous  ghosts. 
Talifer  (1933)  is  far  better,  the  happiest  and  most  teasing  of  Robinson's  longer 
poems,  an  unexpected  blend  of  wisdom  and  wicked  irony.  Amatanth  (1954)  1S  an- 
other  nightmare  narrative  of  deluded  failures  and  dream-ridden  mediocrities.  Unfor- 
tunately the  poem,  for  all  its  dramatic  possibilities,  is  wholly  without  drama,  and  it 
is  difficult  to  tell  whether  Robinson  is  sympathi/ing  with  his  lost  shadows  or  satiriz- 
ing them.  The  theme  of  frustration  is  continued  in  the  posthumous  King  Jasper 
(1935)  which  was  introduced  with  a  shrewd  analysis  of  "new  ways  of  being  new" 
by  Robert  Frost;  unfortunately  King  Jasper  is  an  involved  and  dubious  allegory. 

Subsequent  to  1911  Robinson  lived  most  of  his  summers  at  Peterborough,  New 
Hampshire,  at  the  MacDowell  Colony,  of  which  he  was  the  unofficial  but  acknowl- 
edged presiding  genius.  He  divided  his  winters  between  New  York  and  Boston  until 
ill  health  forced  him  to  forego  travel  of  any  sort.  His  last  winter  in  Boston  was  full 
of  suffering,  chiefly  due  to  a  growth  in  the  pancreas,  and  when  he  was  taken  to  the 
New  York  Hospital  he  was  in  a  pitifully  weakened  condition.  It  was  impossible  to 
operate  successfully  and  he  died  there  April  6,  1935. 

Upon  his  death  there  were  the  inevitable  belated  tributes  to  an  unhappy  poet  and 
a  lonely  man.  The  most  eloquent  of  them  was  Robinson  Jcffers*  spontaneous  response. 
"I  cannot  speak  of  E.  A.  Robinson's  work,"  wrote  Jeffers.  "Better  critics  than  I  have 
praised  its  qualities,  and  will  again.  Let  me  notice  instead  the  debt  we  owe  him  for 
the  qualities  of  his  life;  for  the  dignity  with  which  he  wore  his  fame,  for  the  example 
of  his  reticence  and  steady  concentration,  for  the  single-mindedness  with  which  he 
followed  his  own  sense  of  direction,  unbewildered  and  undiverted.  .  .  .  We  are 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON  139 

grateful  that  he  was  not  what  they  call  'a  good  showman,'  but  gave  himself  to  his 
work,  not  to  his  audience,  and  would  have  preferred  complete  failure  to  any  success 
with  the  least  taint  of  charlatanry."  It  was  this  undeviating  integrity  which  carried 
Robinson  through  his  difficulties  and  won  him  the  admiration  of  all  his  contem- 
poraries, irrespective  ot  their  preferences  or  poetic  affiliations. 

It  has  been  said  that  Robinson's  pessimism  alienated  part  of  his  audience.  But 
Robinson  always  took  pains  to  refute  this  charge,  not  only  in  his  private  protests — 
in  his  letters  and  conversations — but  in  his  poems.  He  denied  that  life  was  merely  a 
material  phenomenon.  In  the  sonnet  "Credo"  he  implied  his  faith;  he  said  it  ex- 
plicitly when  he  maintained  that  humanity  might  be  unaware  of  its  destiny  and 
unsure  of  its  divinity,  but  it  could  not  surrender  its  belief:  "The  world  is  not  a 
'prison-house*  but  a  kind  of  spiritual  kindergarten,  where  millions  of  bewildered 
infants  are  trying  to  spell  God  with  the  wrong  blocks." 


EXIT 

For  what  we  owe  to  other  days, 
Before  we  poisoned  him  with  praise, 
May  we  who  shrank  to  find  him  weak 
Remember  that  he  cannot  speak. 

For  envy  that  we  may  recall, 
And  for  our  faith  before  the  fall, 
May  we  who  are  alive  be  slow 
To  tell  what  we  shall  never  know. 

For  penance  he  would  not  confess, 
And  for  the  fateful  emptiness 
Of  early  triumph  undermined, 
May  we  now  venture  to  be  kind. 


CREDO 

I  cannot  find  my  way:  there  is  no  star 
In  all  the  shrouded  heavens  anywhere; 
And  there  is  not  a  whisper  in  the  air 
Of  any  living  voice  but  one  so  far 
That  I  can  hear  it  only  as  a  bar 
Of  lost,  imperial  music,  played  when  fair 
And  angel  fingers  wove,  and  unaware, 
Dead  leaves  to  garlands  where  no  roses  are. 

No,  there  is  not  a  glimmer,  nor  a  call, 
For  one  that  welcomes,  welcomes  when  he  fears, 
The  black  and  awful  chaos  of  the  night; 
But  through  it  all, — above,  beyond  it  all— 
I  know  the  far-sent  message  of  the  years, 
I  feel  the  coming  glory  of  the  Light! 


140 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 


JAMES    WETHERELL 

We  never  half  believed  the  stuff 

They  told  about  James  Wethercll; 

We  always  liked  him  well  enough, 

And  always  tried  to  use  him  well; 

But  now  some  things  have  come  to  light, 

And  James  has  vanished  from  our  view. — 

There  isn't  very  much  to  write, 

There  isn't  very  much  to  do. 

MINIVER    C  H  E E  V  Y 

Miniver  Checvy,  child  of  scorn, 

Grew  lean  while  he  assailed  the  seasons; 
He  wept  that  he  was  ever  born, 

And  he  had  reasons. 

••» 

Miniver  loved  the  days  of  old 
When  swords  were  bright  and  steeds  were 

prancing; 

The  vision  of  a  warrior  bold 
Would  set  him  dancing. 

Miniver  sighed  for  what  was  not, 
And  dreamed,  and  rested  irom  his  labors; 


He  dreamed  of  Thebes  and  Camelot, 
And  Priam's  neighbors. 

Miniver  mourned  the  npe  renown' 
That  made  so  many  a  name  so  fragrant; 

He  mourned  Romance,  now  on  the  town, 
And  Art,  a  vagrant. 

Miniver  loved  the  Medici, 

Albeit  he  had  never  seen  one; 
He  would  have  sinned  incessantly 

Could  he  have  been  one. 

Miniver  cursed  the  commonplace 
And  eyed  a  khaki  suit  with  loathing; 

He  missed  the  medieval  grace 
Of  iron  clothing. 

Miniver  scorned  the  gold  he  sought, 
But  sore  annoyed  was  he  without  it; 

Miniver  thought,  and  thought,  and  thought, 
And  thought  about  it. 

Miniver  Chcevy,  born  too  late, 

Scratched  his  head  and  kept  on  thinking; 
Miniver  coughed,  and  called  it  fate, 

And  kept  on  drinking. 


CLIFF    KLINGENHAGEN 

Cliff  Klmgenhagen  had  me  in  to  dine 
With  him  one  day;  and  alter  soup  and  meat, 
And  all  the  other  things  there  were  to  eat, 
ClifT  took  two  glasses  and  filled  one  with  wine 
And  one  with  wormwood.  Then,  without  a  sign 
For  me  to  choose  at  all,  he  took  the  draught 
Of  bitterness  himself,  and  lightly  quaffed 
It  off,  and  said  the  other  one  was  mine. 

And  when  I  asked  him  what  the  deuce  he  meant 
By  doing  that,  he  only  looked  at  me 
And  grinned,  and  said  it  was  a  way  of  his. 
Anil  though  T  know  the  fellow,  I  have  spent 
Long  time  a-wondenng  when  I  shall  be 
As  happy  as  Cliff  Klmgenhagen  is. 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 


141 


THE    HOUSE    ON    THE    HILL 

They  are  all  gone  away, 

The  House  is  shut  and  still, 
There  is  nothing  more  to  say. 

Through  hroken  walls  and  gray 

The  winds  blow  hlcak  and  shrill; 
They  are  all  gone  away. 

Nor  is  there  one  today 

To  speak  them  good  or  ill: 
There  is  nothing  more  to  say. 

Why  is  it  then  we  stray 

Around  that  sunken  sill? 
They  are  all  gone  away, 

And  our  poor  fancy-play 

For  them  is  wasted  skill: 
There  is  nothing  more  to  say. 


There  is  rum  and  decay 

In  the  House  on  the  Hill: 
They  are  all  gone  away, 
There  is  nothing  more  to  say. 


AN    OLD    STORY 

Strange  that  I  did  not  know  him  then, 

That  friend  of  mine. 
I  did  not  even  show  him  then 

One  fucndly  sign; 

But  cursed  him  for  the  ways  he  had 

To  make  me  see 
My  envy  of  the  praise  he  had 

For  praising  me. 

I  would  have  rid  the  earth  of  him 

Once,  in  my  pride. 
I  never  knew  the  worth  of  him 

Until  he  died. 


RICHARD    CORY 

Whenever  Richard  Cory  went  clown  town, 
We  people  on  the  pavement  looked  at  him: 

He  was  a  gentleman  from  sole  to  crown, 
Clean  favored,  and  imperially  slim. 

And  he  was  always  quietly  arrayed, 

And  he  was  always  human  when  he  talked; 

But  still  he  fluttered  pulses  when  he  said, 
"Good-morning,"  and  he  glittered  when  he  walked. 

And  he  was  rich — yes,  richer  than  a  king — 
And  admirably  schooled  in  every  grace: 

In  fine,  we  thought  that  he  was  everything 
To  make  us  wish  that  we  were  in  his  place. 

So  on  we  worked,  and  waited  for  the  light, 
And  went  without  the  meat,  and  cursed  the  bread; 

And  Richard  Cory,  one  calm  summer  night, 
Went  home  and  put  a  bullet  through  his  head. 


BEWICK    F INZER 

Time  was  when  his  half  million  drew 
The  breath  of  six  per  cent; 

But  soon  the  worm  of  what-was-not 
Fed  hard  on  his  content; 

And  something  crumbled  in  his  brain 
When  his  half  million  went* 


Time  passed,  and  filled  along  with  his 

The  place  of  many  more; 
Time  came,  and  hardly  one  of  us 

Had  credence  to  restore, 
From  what  appeared  one  day,  the  man 

Whom  we  had  known  before. 

The  broken  voice,  the  withered  neck, 
The  coat  worn  out  with  care, 


142 

The  cleanliness  of  indigence, 

The  brilliance  of  despair, 
The  fond  imponderable  dreams 

Of  affluence, — all  were  there. 

Poor  Finzer,  with  his  dreams  and  schemes, 

Fares  hard  now  in  the  race, 
With  heart  and  eye  that  have  a  task 

When  he  looks  in  the  face 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

Of  one  who  might  so  easily 
Have  been  in  Fmzer's  place. 


He  comes  unfailing  for  the  loan 
We  give*  and  then  forget; 

He  comes,  and  probably  for  years 
Will  he  be  coming  yet, — 

Familiar  as  an  old  mistake, 
And  futile  as  regret. 


REUBEN    BRIGHT 

Because  he  was  a  butcher  and  thereby 

Did  earn  an  honest  living  (and  did  right) 

I  would  not  have  you  think  that  Reuben  Bright 

Was  any  more  a  brute  than  you  or  I; 

For  when  they  told  him  that  his  wife  must  die, 

He  stared  at  them  and  shook  with  grief  and  fright, 

And  cried  like  a  great  baby  half  that  night, 

And  made  the  women  cry  to  see  him  cry. 

And  after  she  was  dead,  and  he  had  paid 

The  singers  and  the  sexton  and  the  rest, 

He  packed  a  lot  of  things  that  she  had  made 

Most  mournfully  away  m  an  old  chest 

Of  hers,  and  put  some  chopped-up  cedar  boughs 

In  with  them,  and  tore  down  the  slaughter-house. 


FOR    A    DEAD    LADY 

No  more  with  overflowing  light 
Shall  fill  the  eyes  that  now  arc  faded, 
Nor  shall  another's  fringe  with  night 
Their  woman-hidden  world  as  they  did. 
No  more  shall  quiver  down  the  days 
The  flowing  wonder  of  her  ways, 
Whereof  no  language  may  requite 
The  shifting  and  the  many-shaded. 

The  grace,  divine,  definitive, 
Clings  only  as  a  faint  forestalling; 
The  laugh  that  love  could  not  forgive 
Is  hushed,  and  answers  to  no  calling; 


The  forehead  and  the  little  ears 
Have  gone  where  Saturn  keeps  the  years; 
The  breast  where  roses  could  not  live 
Has  done  with  rising  and  with  falling. 

The  beauty,  shattered  by  the  laws 
That  have  creation  in  their  keeping, 
No  longer  trembles  at  applause, 
Or  over  children  that  are  sleeping; 
And  we  who  delve  in  beauty's  lore 
Know  all  that  we  have  known  before 
Of  what  inexorable  cause 
Makes  Time  so  vicious  in  his  reaping. 


CALVARY 

Friendless  and  faint,  with  martyred  steps  and  slow, 
Faint  for  the  flesh,  but  for  the  spirit  free, 
Stung  by  the  mob  that  came  to  see  the  show, 
The  Master  toiled  along  to  Calvary; 
We  gibed  him,  as  he  went,  with  houndish  glee, 
Till  his  dimmed  eyes  for  us  did  overflow; 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

We  cursed  his  vengeless  hands  thrice  wretchedly, — 
And  this  was  nineteen  hundred  years  ago. 
But  after  nineteen  hundred  years  the  shame 
Still  clings,  and  we  have  not  made  good  the  loss 
That  outraged  faith  has  entered  in  his  name. 
Ah,  when  shall  come  love's  courage  to  he  strong! 
Tell  me,  O  Lord — tell  me,  O  Lord,  how  long 
Are  we  to  keep  Christ  writhing  on  the  cross! 


'43 


/VICKERY'S  MOUNTAIN 

Blue  in  the  west  the  mountain  stands, 

And  through  the  long  twilight 
Vickery  sits  with  folded  hands, 

And  Vickery's  eyes  are  bright. 

Bright,  for  he  knows  what  no  man  else 

On  earth  as  yet  may  know: 
•There's  a  golden  word  that  he  never  tells, 

And  a  gift  that  he  will  not  show. 

He  dreams  of  honor  and  wealth  and  fame, 

He  smiles,  and  well  he  may; 
For  to  Vickery  once  a  sick  man  came 

Who  did  not  go  away. 

The  day  before  the  day  to  be, 

"Vickery,"  said  the  guest, 
"You  know  as  you  live  what's  left  of  me — 

And  you  shall  know  the  rest. 

"You  know  as  you  live  that  I  have  come 

To  what  we  call  the  end. 
No  doubt  you  have  found  me  troublesome, 

But  you've  also  found  a  friend; 

"For  we  shall  give  and  you  shall  take 

The  gold  that  is  in  view; 
The  mountain  there  and  I  shall  make 

A  golden  man  of  you. 

"And  you  shall  leave  a  friend  behind 

Who  neither  frets  nor  feels; 
And  you  shall  move  among  your  kind 

With  hundreds  at  your  heels. 

"Now  this  I  have  written  here 

Tells  all  that  need  be  told; 
So,  Vickery,  take  the  way  that's  clear, 

And  be  a  man  of  gold." 

Vickery  turned  his  eyes  again 
TQ  the  far  mountain-side, 


And  wept  a  tear  for  worthy  men 
Defeated  and  defied. 

Since  then  a  crafty  scoie  of  yeais 
Have  come,  anil  they  have  gone; 

But  Vickery  counts  no  lost  arrears: 
He  lingers  and  lives  on. 

Blue  in  the  west  the  mountain  stands, 

Familiar  as  a  face, 
Blue,  but  Vickery  knows  what  sands 

Are  golden  at  its  base. 

He  dreams  and  lives  upon  the  day 
When  he  shall  walk  with  kings. 

Vickery  smiles — and  well  he  may: 
The  hfe-cagcd  linnet  sings. 

Vickery  thinks  the  time  will  come 

To  go  for  what  is  his; 
But  hovering,  unseen  hands  at  home 

Will  hold  him  where  he  is. 

There's  a  golden  word  that  he  never  tells 
And  a  gitt  that  he  will  not  show. 

All  to  be  given  to  someone  else — 
And  Vickcry  shall  not  know. 


TOO    MUCH    COFFEE 

Together  in  infinite  shade 
They  defy  the  invincible  dawn: 

The  Measure  that  never  was  made, 
The  Line  that  never  was  drawn. 


THE    MASTER 

(Lincoln.  Supposed  to  have  been  written  not 
long  after  the  Civil  War) 

A  flying  word  from  here  and  there 
Had  sown  the  name  at  which  we  sneered, 
But  soon  the  name  was  everywhere, 
To  be  reviled  and  then  revered: 


144 

A  presence  to  be  loved  and  feared, 
We  cannot  hide  it,  or  deny 
That  we,  the  gentlemen  who  jeered, 
May  be  forgotten  by  and  by. 


He  came  when  days  were  perilous 
And  hearts  of  men  were  sore  beguiled; 
And  having  made  his  note  of  us, 
He  pondered  and  was  reconciled. 
Was  ever  master  yet  so  mild 
As  he,  and  so  untamable ? 
We  doubted,  even  when  he  smiled, 
Not  knowing  what  he  knew  so  well. 

He  knew  that  undeceiving  fate 

Would  shame  us  whom  he  served  unsought; 

He  knew  that  he  must  wince  and  wait — 

The  jest  of  those  for  whom  he  fought; 

He  knew  devoutly  what  he  thought 

Of  us  and  of  our  ridicule; 

He  knew  that  we  must  all  be  taught 

Like  little  children  in  a  school. 

We  gave  a  glamour  to  the  task 

That  he  encountered  and  saw  through, 

But  little  of  us  did  he  ask, 

And  little  did  we  ever  do. 

And  what  appears  if  we  review 

The  season  when  we  railed  and  chaffed? 

It  is  the  face  of  one  who  knew 

That  we  were  learning  while  we  laughed. 

The  face  that  in  our  vision  feels 
Again  the  venom  that  we  flung, 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

Transfigured  to  the  world  reveals 
The  vigilance  to  which  we  clung. 
Shrewd,  hallowed,  harassed,  and  among 
The  mysteries  that  are  untold, 
The  face  we  see  was  never  young, 
Nor  could  it  ever  have  been  old. 


For  he,  to  whom  we  had  applied 
Our  shopman's  test  of  age  and  worth, 
Was  elemental  when  he  died, 
As  he  was  ancient  at  his  birth: 
The  saddest  among  kings  of  earth, 
Bowed  with  a  galling  crown,  this  man 
Met  rancor  with  a  cryptic  mirth, 
Laconic — and  Olympian. 

The  love,  the  grandeur,  and  the  fame 
Are  bounded  by  the  world  alone; 
The  calm,  the  smoldering,  and  the  flame 
Of  awful  patience  were  his  own: 
With  him  they  are  forever  flown 
Past  all  our  fond  self-sha  do  wings, 
Wherewith  we  cumber  the  Unknown 
As  with  inept  Icanan  wings. 

For  we  were  not  as  other  men: 
'Twas  ours  to  soar  and  his  to  see. 
But  we  are  coming  down  again, 
And  we  shall  come  down  pleasantly; 
Nor  shall  we  longer  disagree 
On  what  it  is  to  be  sublime, 
But  flourish  in  our  perigee 
And  have  one  Titan  at  a  time. 


MR.    FLOOD    S    PARTY 

Old  Eben  Flood,  climbing  alone  one  night 
Over  the  hill  between  the  town  below 
And  the  forsaken  upland  hermitage 
That  held  as  much  as  he  should  ever  know 
On  earth  again  of  home,  paused  wanly. 
The  road  was  his  with  not  a  native  near; 
And  Eben,  having  leisure,  said  aloud, 
For  no  man  else  in  Tilbury  Town  to  hear: 

"Well,  Mr.  Flood,  we  have  the  harvest  moon 
Again,  and  we  may  not  have  many  more; 
The  bird  is  on  the  wing,  the  poet  says, 
And  you  and  I  have  said  it  here  betorc. 
Drink  to  the  bird."  He  raised  up  to  the  light 
The  jug  that  he  had  gone  so  far  to  fill, 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON  14$ 

And  answered  huskily:  "Well,  Mr.  Flood, 
Since  you  propose  it,  I  believe  I  will." 

Alone,  as  if  enduring  to  the  end 

A  valiant  armor  ol  scarred  hopes  outworn, 

He  stood  there  in  the  middle  of  the  road 

Like  Roland's  ghost  winding  a  silent  horn. 

Below  him,  in  the  town  among  the  trees, 

Where  friends  of  other  days  had  honored  him, 

A  phantom  salutation  of  the  dead 

Rang  thinly  till  old  Eben's  eyes  were  dim. 

Then,  as  a  mother  lays  her  sleeping  child 

Down  tenderly,  fearing  it  may  awake, 

He  set  the  jug  down  slowly  at  his  feet 

With  trembling  care,  knowing  that  most  things  break; 

And  only  when  assured  that  on  firm  earth 

It  stood,  as  the  uncertain  lives  of  men 

Assuredly  did  not,  he  paced  away, 

And  with  his  hand  extended  paused  again: 

"Well,  Mr.  Flood,  we  have  not  met  like  this 
In  a  long  time;  and  many  a  change  has  come 
To  both  of  us,  I  fear,  since  last  it  was 
We  had  a  drop  together.  Welcome  home'" 
Convivially  returning  with  himself, 
Again  he  raised  the  jug  up  to  the  light; 
And  with  an  acquiescent  quaver  said: 
"Well,  Mr.  Flood,  if  you  insist,  I  might. 

"Only  a  very  little,  Mr.  Flood — 

For  auld  lang  syne.  No  more,  sir;  that  will  do." 

So,  for  the  time,  apparently  it  did, 

And  Ebcn  evidently  thought  so  too; 

For  soon  amid  the  silver  loneliness 

Of  night  he  lifted  up  his  voice  and  sang, 

Secure,  with  only  two  moons  listening, 

Until  the  whole  harmonious  landscape  rang — 

"For  auld  lang  syne."  The  weary  throat  gave  out, 
The  last  word  wavered,  and  the  song  being  done, 
He  raised  again  the  jug  regretfully 
And  shook  his  head,  and  was  again  alone. 
There  was  not  much  that  was  ahead  of  him, 
And  there  was  nothing  in  the  town  below — 
Where  strangers  would  have  shut  the  many  doors 
That  many  friends  had  opened  long  ago. 


GEORGE    C  R A  B  BE 

Give  him  the  darkest  inch  your  shelf  allows, 
Hide  him  in  lonely  garrets,  if  you  will, — 


146  EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

But  his  hard,  human  pulse  is  throbbing  still 

With  the  sure  strength  that  fearless  truth  endows. 

In  spite  of  all  fine  science  disavows, 

Of  his  plain  excellence  and  stubborn  skill 

There  yet  remains  what  fashion  cannot  kill, 

Though  years  have  thinned  the  laurel  from  his  brows. 

Whether  or  not  we  read  him,  we  can  feel 
From  time  to  time  the  vigor  of  his  name 
Against  us  like  a  finger  for  the  shame 
And  emptiness  of  what  our  souls  reveal 
In  books  that  are  as  altars  where  we  kneel 
To  consecrate  the  flicker,  not  the  flame. 


LUKE    HAVERGAL 

Go  to  the  western  gate,  Luke  Havergal, 
There  where  the  vines  cling  crimson  on  the  wall, 
And  in  the  twilight  wait  for  what  will  come. 
The  leaves  will  whisper  there  of  her,  and  some, 
Like  flying  words,  will  strike  you  as  they  fall; 
But  go,  and  if  you  listen,  she  will  call. 
Go  to  the  western  gate,  Luke  Havergal — 
Luke  Havergal. 

No,  there  is  not  a  dawn  in  eastern  skies 
To  rift  the  fiery  night  that's  in  your  eyes; 
But  there,  where  western  glooms  are  gathering, 
The  dark  will  end  the  dark,  if  anything: 
God  slays  himself  with  every  leaf  that  flies, 
And  hell  is  more  than  half  of  paradise. 
No,  there  is  not  a  dawn  in  eastern  skies — 
In  eastern  skies. 

Out  of  a  grave  I  come  to  tell  you  this, 
Out  of  a  grave  I  come  to  quench  the  kiss 
That  flames  upon  your  forehead  with  a  glow 
That  blinds  you  to  the  way  that  you  must  go. 
Yes,  there  is  yet  one  way  to  where  she  is, 
Bitter,  but  one  that  faith  may  never  miss. 
Out  of  a  grave  I  come  to  tell  you  this — 
To  tell  you  this. 

There  is  the  western  gate,  Luke  Havergal, 
There  are  the  crimson  leaves  upon  the  wall. 
Go,  for  the  winds  are  tearing  them  away, — 
Nor  think  to  riddle  the  dead  words  they  say, 
Nor  any  more  to  feel  them  as  they  fall; 
But  go,  and  if  you  trust  her  she  will  call. 
There  is  the  western  gate,  Luke  Havergal — 
Luke  Havergal. 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON  147 

JOHN    GORHAM 

"Tell  me  what  you're  doing  over  here,  John  Gorham, 
Sighing  hard  and  seeming  to  be  sorry  when  you're  not; 
Make  me  laugh  or  let  me  go  now,  for  long  faces  in  the  moonlight 
Are  a  sign  for  me  to  say  again  a  word  that  you  forgot." — 

'Tm  over  here  to  tell  you  what  the  moon  already 
May  have  said  or  maybe  shouted  ever  since  a  year  ago; 
I'm  over  here  to  tell  you  what  you  are,  Jane  Wayland, 
And  to  make  you  rather  sorry,  I  should  say,  for  being  so." — 

"Tell  me  what  you're  saying  to  me  now,  John  Gorham, 
Or  you'll  never  see  as  much  of  me  as  ribbons  any  more; 
I'll  vanish  in  as  many  ways  as  I  have  toes  and  fingers, 
And  you'll  not  follow  far  for  one  where  flocks  have  been  before." — 

"I'm  sorry  now  you  never  saw  the  flocks,  Jane  Wayland, 
But  you're  the  one  to  make  of  them  as  many  as  you  need. 
And  then  about  the  vanishing:  It's  I  who  mean  to  vanish; 
And  when  I'm  here  no  longer  you'll  be  done  with  me  indeed." — 

"That's  a  way  to  tell  me  what  I  am,  John  Gorham' 
How  am  I  to  know  mysclr.  until  I  make  you  smile? 
Try  to  look  as  if  the  moon  were  making  faces  at  you, 
And  a  little  more  as  if  you  meant  to  stay  a  little  while." — 

"You  are  what  it  is  that  over  rose-blown  gardens 
Makes  a  pretty  flutter  for  a  season  in  the  sun; 
You  are  what  it  is  that  with  a  mouse,  Jane  Wayland, 
Catches  him  and  lets  him  go  and  eats  him  up  lor  fun." — 

"Sure  I  never  took  you  for  a  mouse,  John  Gorham; 
All  you  say  is  easy,  but  so  far  from  being  true, 
That  I  wish  you  wouldn't  ever  be  again  the  one  to  think  so; 
For  it  isn't  cats  and  butterflies  that  I  would  be  to  you." — 

"All  your  little  animals  are  in  one  picture — 
One  I've  had  before  me  since  a  year  ago  tonight; 
And  the  picture  where  they  live  will  be  of  you,  Jane  Wayland, 
Till  you  find  a  way  to  kill  them  or  to  keep  them  out  of  sight." — 

"Won't  you  ever  see  me  as  I  am,  John  Gorham, 
Leaving  out  the  foolishness  and  all  I  never  meant? 
Somewhere  in  me  there's  a  woman,  if  you  know  the  way  to  find  her. 
Will  you  like  me  any  better  if  I  prove  it  and  repent?" — 

"I  doubt  if  I  shall  ever  have  the  time,  Jane  Wayland; 
And  I  dare  say  all  this  moonlight  lying  round  us  might  as  well 
Fall  for  nothing  on  the  shards  of  broken  urns  that  are  forgotten, 
As  on  two  that  have  no  longer  much  of  anything  to  tell." 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 


HOW    ANNANDALE    WENT    OUT 

"They  called  it  Annandale — and  I  was  there 
To  flourish,  to  find  words,  and  to  attend: 
Liar,  physician,  hypocrite,  and  friend, 
I  watched  him;  and  the  sight  was  not  so  fair 
As  one  or  two  that  I  have  seen  elsewhere: 
An  apparatus  not  for  me  to  mend — 
A  wreck,  with  hell  between  him  and  the  end, 
Remained  of  Annandale;  and  I  was  there. 

"I  knew  the  rum  as  I  knew  the  man; 
So  put  the  two  together,  if  you  can, 
Remembering  the  worst  you  know  of  me. 
Now  view  yourself  as  I  was,  on  the  spot, 
With  a  slight  kind  of  engine.  Do  you  see? 
Like  this  .  .  .  You  wouldn't  hang  me?  I  thought  not." 


THE    FIELD    OF    GLORY 

War  shook  the  land  where  Levi  dwelt, 
And  fired  the  dismal  wrath  he  felt, 
That  such  a  doom  was  ever  wrought 
As  his,  to  toil  while  others  tought; 
To  toil,  to  dream — and  still  to  dream, 
With  one  day  barren  as  another; 
To  consummate,  as  it  would  seem, 
The  dry  despair  of  his  old  mother. 

Far  of!  one  afternoon  began 
The  sound  of  man  destroying  man; 
And  Levi,  sick  with  nameless  rage, 
Condemned  again  his  heritage, 
And  sighed  for  scars  that  might  have  come, 
And  would,  if  once  he  could  have  sundered 
Those  harsh,  inhering  claims  of  home 
That  held  him  while  he  cursed  and  won- 
dered. 

Another  day,  and  then  there  came, 
Rough,  bloody,  ribald,  hungry,  lame, 
But  yet  themselves,  to  Levi' s  door, 
Two  remnants  of  the  day  before. 
They  laughed  at  him  and  what  he  sought; 
They  jeered  him  and  his  painful  acre; 
But  Levi  knew  that  they  had  fought, 
And  left  their  manners  to  their  Maker. 


That  night,  for  the  grim  widow's  ears, 
With  hopes  that  hid  themselves  in  fears, 
He  told  of  arms,  and  fiery  deeds, 
Whereat  one  leaps  the  while  he  reads, 
And  said  he'd  be  no  more  a  clown, 
While  others  drew  the  breath  of  battle. 
The  mother  looked  him  up  and  down, 
And  laughed — a  scant  laugh  with  a  rattle. 

She  told  him  what  she  found  to  tell, 
And  Levi  listened,  and  heard  well 
Some  admonitions  of  a  voice 
That  left  him  no  cause  to  rejoice. — 
He  sought  a  friend,  and  found  the  stars, 
And  prayed  aloud  that  they  should  aid  him; 
But  they  said  not  a  word  of  wars, 
Or  of  a  reason  why  God  made  him. 

And  who's  of  this  or  that  estate 
We  do  not  wholly  calculate, 
When  baffling  shades  that  shift  and  cling 
Are  not  without  their  glimmering; 
When  even  Levi,  tired  of  faith, 
Beloved  of  none,  forgot  by  many, 
Dismissed  as  an  inferior  wraith, 
Reborn  may  be  as  great  as  any. 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

THE    CLERKS 

I  did  not  think  that  I  should  find  them  there 
When  I  came  back  again;  but  there  they  stood, 
As  in  the  days  they  dreamed  of  when  young  blood 
Was  in  their  cheeks  and  women  called  them  iair. 
Be  sure  they  met  me  with  an  ancient  air, — 
And  yes,  there  was  a  shop-worn  brotherhood 
About  them;  but  the  men  were  just  as  good, 
And  just  as  human  as  they  ever  were. 

And  you  that  ache  so  much  to  be  sublime, 
And  you  that  teed  yourselves  with  your  descent, 
What  comes  of  all  your  visions  and  your  fears? 
Poets  and  kings  are  but  the  clerks  of  Time, 
Tiering  the  same  dull  webs  of  discontent 
Clipping  the  same  sad  alnage  ot  the  years. 


THE    DARK    HILLS 

Dark  hills  at  evening  in  the  west, 
Where  sunset  hovers  like  a  sound 
Of  golden  horns  that  sang  to  rest 
Old  bones  of  warriors  under  ground, 
Far  now  irom  all  the  bannered  ways 
Where  flash  the  legions  of  the  sun, 
You  fade — as  if  the  last  of  days 
Were  fading  and  all  wars  were  done. 


EROS    TURANNOS 

She  fears  him,  and  will  always  ask 

What  fated  her  to  choose  him; 
She  meets  in  his  engaging  mask 

Ail  reasons  to  refuse  him; 
But  what  she  meets  and  what  she  fears 
Are  less  than  are  the  downward  years, 
Drawn  slowly  to  the  foamless  weirs 
Of  age,  were  she  to  lose  him. 

Between  a  blurred  sagacity 

That  once  had  power  to  sound  him, 
And  Love,  that  will  not  let  him  be 

The  Judas  that  she  found  him, 
Her  pride  assuages  her  almost, 
As  if  it  were  alone  the  cost. 
He  sees  that  he  will  not  be  lost, 

And  waits  and  looks  around  him. 

A  sense  of  ocean  and  old  trees 
Envelops  and  allures  him; 


Tiadition,  touching  all  he  sees, 

Beguiles  and  reassures  him; 
And  all  her  doubts  of  what  he  says 
Arc  dimmed  with  what  she  knows  of  days — 
Till  even  prejudice  delays 

And  fades,  and  she  secures  him. 

The  falling  leat  inaugurates 

The  reign  of  her  contusion; 
The  pounding  wave  reverberates 

The  dirge  of  her  illusion; 
And  home,  where  passion  lived  and  died, 
Becomes  a  place  where  she  can  hide, 
While  all  the  town  and  harbor-side 

Vibrate  with  her  seclusion. 

We  tell  you,  tapping  on  our  brows, 

The  story  as  it  should  be, 
As  if  the  story  of  a  house 

Were  told,  or  ever  could  be; 
We'll  have  no  kindly  veil  between 
Her  visions  and  those  we  have  seen, — 
As  if  we  guessed  what  hers  have  been, 

Or  what  they  arc  or  would  be. 

Meanwhile  we  do  no  harm;  for  they 

That  with  a  god  have  striven, 
Not  hearing  much  of  what  we  say, 

Take  what  the  god  has  given; 
Though  like  waves  breaking  it  may  be, 
Or  like  a  changed  familiar  tree, 
Or  like  a  stairway  to  the  sea 

Where  down  the  blind  are  driven. 


i5o  EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

THE    SHEAVES 

Where  long  the  shadows  of  the  wind  had  rolled, 
Green  wheat  was  yielding  to  the  change  assigned; 
And  as  by  some  vast  magic  undivmed 
The  world  was  turning  slowly  into  gold. 
Like  nothing  that  was  ever  bought  or  sold 
It  waited  there,  the  body  and  the  mind; 
And  with  a  mighty  meaning  of  a  kind 
That  tells  the  more  the  more  it  is  not  told. 

So  in  a  land  where  all  days  are  not  fair, 
Fair  days  went  on  till  on  another  day 
A  thousand  golden  sheaves  were  lying  there, 
Shining  and  still,  but  not  for  long  to  stay — 
As  if  a  thousand  girls  with  golden  hair 
Might  rise  from  where  they  slept  and  go  away. 


BEN    JONSON    ENTERTAINS    A    MAN    FROM    STRATFORD 

You  are  a  friend  then,  as  I  make  it  out, 

Of  our  man  Shakespeare,  who  alone  of  us 

Will  put  an  ass's  head  in  Fairyland 

As  he  would  add  a  shilling  to  more  shillings, 

All  most  harmonious — and  out  of  his 

Miraculous  inviolable  increase 

Fills  Ihon,  Rome,  or  any  town  you  like 

Of  olden  time  with  timeless  Englishmen; 

And  I  must  wonder  what  you  think  of  him — 

All  you  down  there  where  your  small  Avon  flows 

By  Stratford,  and  where  you're  an  Alderman. 

Some,  for  a  guess,  would  have  him  riding  back 

To  be  a  farrier  there,  or  say  a  dyer; 

Or  maybe  one  of  your  adept  surveyors; 

Or  like  enough  the  wizard  of  all  tanners. 

Not  you — no  fear  of  that;  for  I  discern 

In  you  a  kindling  of  the  flame  that  saves — 

The  nimble  element,  the  true  caloric; 

I  see  it,  and  was  told  of  it,  moreover, 

By  our  discriminate  friend  himself,  no  other. 

Had  you  been  one  of  the  sad  average, 

As  he  would  have  it — meaning,  as  I  take  it, 

The  sinew  and  the  solvent  of  our  Island, 

You'd  not  be  buying  beer  for  this  Terpander's 

Approved  and  estimated  friend  Ben  Jonson; 

He'd  never  foist  it  as  a  part  of  his 

Contingent  entertainment  of  a  townsman 

While  he  goes  off  rehearsing,  as  he  must, 

If  he  shall  ever  be  the  Duke  of  Stratford. 

And  my  words  are  no  shadow  on  your  town — 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON  i5t 

Far  from  it;  for  one  town's  like  another 

As  all  are  unlike  London.  Oh,  he  knows  it — 

And  there's  the  Stratford  in  him;  he  denies  it, 

And  there's  the  Shakespeare  in  him.  So,  God  help  him! 

I  tell  him  he  needs  Greek;  but  neither  God 
Nor  Greek  will  help  him.  Nothing  will  help  that  man. 
You  see  the  fates  have  given  him  so  much, 
He  must  have  all  or  perish — or  look  out 
Of  London,  where  he  sees  too  many  lords. 
They're  part  of  half  what  ails  him:  I  suppose 
There's  nothing  fouler  down  among  the  demons 
Than  what  it  is  he  feels  when  he  remembers 
The  dust  and  sweat  and  ointment  of  his  calling 
With  his  lords  looking  on  and  laughing  at  him. 
King  as  he  is,  he  can't  be  king  de  facto, 
And  that's  as  well,  because  he  wouldn't  like  it; 
He'd  "Frame  a  lower  rating  of  men  then 
Than  he  has  now;  and  after  that  would  come 
An  abdication  or  an  apoplexy. 
He  can't  be  king,  not  even  king  of  Stratford—- 
Though halt  the  world,  if  not  the  whole  ot  it, 
May  crown  him  with  a  crown  that  (its  no  king 
Save  Lord  Apollo's  homesick  emissary: 
Not  there  on  Avon,  or  on  any  stream 
Where  Naiads  and  their  white  arms  are  no  more 
Shall  he  find  home  again.  It's  all  too  bad. 
But  there's  a  comfort,  tor  he'll  have  that  House — 
The  best  you  ever  saw;  and  he'll  be  there 
Anon,  as  you're  an  Alderman.  Good  God' 
He  makes  me  he  awake  o'  nights  and  laugh. 

And  you  have  known  him  from  his  origin, 
You  tell  me;  and  a  most  uncommon  urchin 
He  must  have  been  to  the  few  seeing  ones — 
A  trifle  terrifying,  I  dare  say, 
Discovering  a  world  with  his  man's  eyes, 
Quite  as  another  lad  might  see  some  finches, 
If  he  looked  haid  and  had  an  eye  for  Nature. 
But  this  one  had  his  eyes  and  their  foretelling, 
And  he  had  you  to  fare  with,  and  what  else? 
He  must  have  had  a  father  and  a  mother — 
In  fact  I've  heard  him  say  so — and  a  dog, 
As  a  boy  should,  I  venture;  and  the  dog, 
Most  likely,  was  the  only  man  who  knew  him. 
A  dog,  for  all  I  know,  is  what  he  needs 
As  much  as  anything  right  here  today, 
To  counsel  him  about  his  disillusions, 
Old  aches,  and  parturitions  of  what's  coming — 
A  dog  of  orders,  an  emeritus, 
To  wag  his  tail  at  him  when  he  comes  home, 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 


And  then  to  put  his  paws  up  on  his  knees 
And  say,  "For  God's  sake,  what's  it  all  about?" 

I  don't  know  whether  he  needs  a  dog  or  not  — 

Or  what  he  needs.  I  tell  him  he  needs  Greek; 

I'll  talk  of  rules  and  Aristotle  with  him, 

And  if  his  tongue's  at  home  he'll  say  to  that, 

"I  have  your  word  that  Aristotle  knows, 

And  you  mine  that  I  don't  know  Aristotle." 

He's  all  at  odds  with  ail  the  unities, 

And  what's  yet  worse  it  doesn't  seem  to  matter; 

He  treads  along  through  Time's  old  wilderness 

As  if  the  tramp  of  all  the  centuries 

Had  left  no  roads  —  and  there  are  none,  for  him; 

He  doesn't  see  them,  even  with  those  eyes  — 

And  that's  a  pity,  or  I  say  it  is. 

Accordingly  we  have  him  as  we  have  him  — 

Going  his  way,  the  way  that  he  goes  best, 

A  pleasant  animal  with  no  great  noise 

Or  nonsense  anywheie  to  set  him  of!  — 

Save  only  divers  and  inclement  devils 

Have  made  of  late  his  heart  their  dwelling-place. 

A  flame  half  ready  to  fly  out  sometimes 

At  some  annoyance  may  be  fanned  up  in  him, 

But  soon  it  falls,  and  when  it  falls  goes  out; 

He  knows  how  little  room  there  is  in  there 

For  crude  and  futile  animosities, 

And  how  much  for  the  joy  of  being  whole, 

And  how  much  for  long  sorrow  and  old  pain. 

On  our  side  there  are  some  who  may  be  given 

To  grow  old  wondering  what  he  thinks  of  us 

And  some  above  us,  who  are,  in  his  eyes, 

Above  himself  —  and  that's  quite  right  and  English. 

Yet  here  we  smile,  or  disappoint  the  gods 

Who  made  it  so;  the  gods  have  always  eyes 

To  see  men  scratch;  and  they  see  one  down  here 

Who  itches,  manor-bitten,  to  the  bone, 

Albeit  he  knows  himself  —  yes,  yes,  he  knows  — 

The  lord  ot  more  than  England  and  of  more 

Than  all  the  seas  of  England  in  all  time 

Shall  ever  wash.  D'ye  wonder  that  I  laugh? 

He  sees  me,  and  he  doesn't  seem  to  care; 

And  why  the  devil  should  he?  I  can't  tell  you. 

I'll  meet  him  out  alone  of  a  bright  Sunday, 

Trim,  rather  spruce,  and  quite  the  gentleman. 

"What,  ho,  my  lord!"  say  L  He  doesn't  hear  me; 

Wherefore  I  have  to  pause  and  look  at  him. 

He's  not  enormous,  but  one  looks  at  him. 

A  little  on  the  round  if  you  insist, 

For  now,  God  save  the  mark,  he's  growing  old; 

He's  five  and  forty,  and  to  hear  him  talk 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

These  days  you'd  call  him  eighty;  then  you'd  add 

More  years  to  that.  lie's  old  enough  to  be 

The  father  of  a  world,  and  so  he  is. 

"Ben,  you're  a  scholar,  what's  the  time  of  day?" 

Says  he;  and  there  shines  out  of  him  again 

An  aged  light  that  has  no  age  or  station — 

The  mystery  that's  his — a  mischievous 

Half-mad  serenity  that  laughs  at  fame 

For  being  won  so  easy,  and  at  friends 

Who  laugh  at  him  for  what  he  wants  the  most, 

And  for  his  dukedom  down  in  Warwickshire; — 

By  which  you  see  we're  all  a  little  jealous.  .  .  . 

Poor  Greene!  I  fear  the  color  of  his  name 

Was  even  as  that  of  his  ascending  soul; 

And  he  was  one  where  there  are  many  others — 

Some  scrivening  to  the  end  against  their  fate, 

Their  puppets  all  in  ink  and  all  to  die  there; 

And  some  with  hands  that  once  would  shade  an  eye 

That  scanned  Euripides  and  Aeschylus 

Will  reach  by  this  time  for  a  pot-house  mop 

To  slush  their  first  and  last  of  royalties. 

Poor  devils'  and  they  all  play  to  his  hand; 

For  so  it  was  in  Athens  and  old  Rome. 

But  that's  not  here  or  there;  I've  wandered  off. 

Greene  does  it,  or  I'm  careful.  Where's  that  boy? 

Yes,  he'll  go  back  to  Stratford.  And  we'll  miss  him? 

Dear  sir,  there'll  be  no  London  here  without  him. 

We'll  all  be  riding,  one  of  these  fine  days, 

Down  there  to  see  him — and  his  wife  won't  like  us; 

And  then  we'll  think  of  what  he  never  said 

Of  women — which,  if  taken  all  in  all 

With  what  he  did  say,  would  buy  many  horses. 

Though  nowadays  he's  not  so  much  tor  women. 

"So  few  of  them,"  he  says,  "are  worth  the  guessing.'* 

But  there's  a  worm  at  work  when  he  says  that, 

And  while  he  says  it  one  feels  in  the  air 

A  deal  of  circumambient  hocus-pocus. 

They've  had  him  dancing  till  his  toes  were  tender, 

And  he  can  feel  'em  now,  come  chilly  rains. 

There's  no  long  cry  for  going  into  it, 

However,  and  we  don't  know  much  about  it. 

But  you  in  Stratford,  like  most  here  in  London, 

Have  more  now  in  the  Sonnets  than  you  paid  for; 

He's  put  one  there  with  all  her  poison  on, 

To  make  a  singing  fiction  of  a  shadow 

That's  in  his  life  a  fact,  and  always  will  be. 

But  she's  no  care  of  ours,  though  Time,  I  fear, 

Will  have  a  more  reverberant  ado 

About  her  than  about  another  one 

Who  seems  to  have  decoyed  him,  married  him, 


I54  EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

And  sent  him  scuttling  on  his  way  to  London — 

With  much  already  learned,  and  more  to  learn, 

And  more  to  follow.  Lord'  how  I  see  him  now, 

Pretending,  maybe  trying,  to  be  like  us. 

Whatever  he  may  have  meant,  we  never  had  him; 

He  failed  us,  or  escaped,  or  what  you  will — 

And  there  was  that  about  him  (God  knows  what — 

We'd  flayed  another  had  he  tried  it  on  us) 

That  made  as  many  of  us  as  had  wits 

More  fond  of  all  his  easy  distances 

Than  one  another's  noise  and  clap-your-shoulder. 

But  think  you  not,  my  friend,  he'd  never  talk! 

Talk?  He  was  eldritch  at  it;  and  we  listened — 

Thereby  acquiring  much  we  knew  before 

About  ourselves,  and  hitherto  had  held 

Irrelevant,  or  not  prime  to  the  purpose. 

And  there  were  some,  of  course,  and  there  be  now, 

Disordered  and  reduced  amazedly 

To  resignation  by  the  mystic  seal 

Of  young  finality  the  gods  had  laid 

On  everything  that  made  him  a  young  demon; 

And  one  or  two  shot  looks  at  him  already 

As  he  had  been  their  executioner; 

And  once  or  twice  he  was,  not  knowing  it — 

Or  knowing,  being  sorry  for  poor  clay 

And  saying  nothing  .  .  .  Yet,  for  all  his  engines, 

You'll  meet  a  thousand  of  an  afternoon 

Who  strut  and  sun  themselves  and  see  around  'em 

A  world  made  out  of  more  that  has  a  reason 

Than  his,  I  swear,  that  he  sees  here  today; 

Though  he  may  scarcely  give  a  Fool  an  exit 

But  we  mark  how  he  sees  in  everything 

A  law  that,  given  that  we  flout  it  once  too  often, 

Brings  fire  and  iron  down  on  our  naked  heads. 

To  me  it  looks  as  if  the  power  that  made  him, 

For  fear  of  giving  all  things  to  one  creature, 

Left  out  the  first — faith,  innocence,  illusion, 

Whatever  'tis  that  keeps  us  out  o'  Bedlam — 

And  thereby,  for  his  too  consuming  vision, 

Empowered  him  out  of  nature;  though  to  see  him, 

You'd  never  guess  what's  going  on  inside  him. 

He'll  break  out  some  day  like  a  keg  of  ale 

With  too  much  independent  frenzy  in  it; 

And  all  for  cellaring  what  he  knows  won't  keep, 

And  what  he'd  best  forget — but  that  he  can't. 

You'll  have  it,  and  have  more  than  I'm  foretelling; 

And  there'll  be  such  a  roaring  at  the  Globe 

As  never  stunned  the  bleeding  gladiators. 

He'll  have  to  change  the  color  of  its  hair 

A  bit,  for  now  he  calls  it  Cleopatra. 

Black  hair  would  never  do  for  Cleopatra. 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON  755 

But  you  and  I  arc  not  yet  two  old  women, 

And  you're  a  man  of  office.  What  he  does 

Is  more  to  you  than  how  it  is  he  does  it — 

And  that's  what  the  Lord  God  has  never  told  him. 

They  work  together,  and  the  Devil  helps  'cm; 

They  do  it  of  a  morning,  or  if  not, 

They  do  it  of  a  night;  in  which  event 

He's  peevish  of  a  morning.  He  seems  old; 

He's  not  the  proper  stomach  or  the  sleep — 

And  they're  two  sovran  agents  to  conserve  him 

Against  the  fiery  art  that  has  no  mercy 

But  what's  in  that  prodigious  grand  new  House. 

I  gather  something  happening  in  his  boyhood 

Fulfilled  him  with  a  boy's  determination 

To  make  all  Stratford  'ware  of  him.  Well,  well, 

I  hope  at  last  hell  have  his  joy  of  it, 

And  all  his  pigs  and  sheep  and  bellowing  beeves, 

And  frogs  and  owls  and  unicorns,  moreover, 

Be  less  than  hell  to  his  attendant  ears. 

Oh,  past  a  doubt  we'll  all  go  down  to  see  him. 

He  may  be  wise.  With  London  two  days  off, 

Down  there  some  wind  of  heaven  may  yet  revive  him, 

But  there's  no  quickening  breath  from  anywhere 

Shall  make  of  him  again  the  young  poised  faun 

From  Warwickshire,  who'd  made,  it  seems,  already 

A  legend  of  himself  before  I  came 

To  blink  before  the  last  of  his  first  lightning. 

Whatever  there  be,  there'll  be  no  more  oC  that; 

The  coming  on  of  his  old  monster  Time 

Has  made  him  a  still  man;  and  he  has  dreams 

Were  fair  to  think  on  once,  and  all  found  hollow. 

He  knows  how  much  of  what  men  paint  themselves 

Would  blister  in  the  light  of  what  they  are; 

He  sees  how  much  of  what  was  great  now  shares 

An  eminence  transformed  and  ordinary; 

He  knows  too  much  of  what  the  world  has  hushed 

In  others,  to  be  loud  now  for  himself; 

He  knows  now  at  what  height  low  enemies 

May  reach  his  heart,  and  high  friends  let  him  fall; 

But  what  not  even  such  as  he  may  know 

Bedevils  him  the  worst:  his  lark  may  sing 

At  heaven's  gate  how  he  will,  and  for  as  long 

As  joy  may  listen,  but  he  sees  no  gate, 

Save  one  whereat  the  spent  clay  waits  a  little 

Before  the  churchyard  has  it,  and  the  worm. 

Not  long  ago,  late  in  an  afternoon, 

I  came  on  him  unseen  down  Lambeth  way, 

And  on  my  life  I  was  afear'd  of  him: 

He  gloomed  and  mumbled  like  a  soul  from  Tophet* 


756  EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

His  hands  behind  him  and  his  head  bent  solemn. 
"What  is  it  now,"  said  I,  "another  woman?" 
That  made  him  sorry  for  me,  and  he  smiled. 
"No,  Ben,"  he  mused;  "it's  Nothing.  It's  all  Nothing. 
We  come,  we  go;  and  when  we're  done,  we're  done; 
Spiders  and  flies — we're  mostly  one  or  t'other — 
We  come,  we  go;  and  when  we're  done,  we're  done." 
"By  God,  you  sing  that  song  as  if  you  knew  it'" 
Said  I,  by  way  of  cheering  him;  "what  ails  ye?" 
"I  think  I  must  have  come  down  here  to  think," 
Says  he  to  that,  and  pulls  his  little  beard; 
"Your  fly  will  serve  as  well  as  anybody, 
And  what's  his  hour?  He  flies,  and  flies,  and  flies, 
And  in  his  fly's  mind  has  a  brave  appearance; 
And  then  your  spider  gets  him  in  her  net, 
And  eats  him  out,  and  hangs  him  up  to  dry. 
'  That's  Nature,  the  kind  mother  of  us  all. 
And  then  your  slattern  housemaid  swings  her  broom, 
And  wherc's  your  spider?  And  that's  Nature,  also. 
It's  Nature,  and  it's  Nothing.  It's  all  Nothing. 
It's  all  a  world  where  bugs  and  emperors 
Go  singularly  back  to  the  same  dust, 
Each  in  his  time;  and  the  old,  ordered  stars 
That  sang  together,  Ben,  will  sing  the  same 
Old  stave  tomorrow." 

When  he  talks  like  that, 
There's  nothing  for  a  human  man  to  do 
But  lead  him  to  some  grateful  nook  like  this 
Where  we  be  now,  and  there  to  make  him  drink. 
He'll  drink,  for  love  of  me,  and  then  be  sick; 
A  sad  sign  always  in  a  man  of  parts, 
And  always  very  ominous.  The  great 
Should  be  as  large  in  liquor  as  in  love — 
And  our  great  friend  is  not  so  large  in  either: 
One  disaflects  him,  and  the  other  fails  him; 
Whatso  he  drinks  that  has  an  antic  in  it, 
He's  wondering  what's  to  pay  in  his  insides; 
And  while  his  eyes  are  on  the  Cyprian   ', 
He's  fribbling  all  the  time  with  that  damned  House. 
We  laugh  here  at  his  thrift,  but  after  all 
It  may  be  thrift  that  saves  him  from  the  devil; 
God  gave  it,  anyhow — and  we'll  suppose 
He  knew  the  compound  of  His  handiwork. 
Today  the  clouds  are  with  him,  but  anon 
He'll  out  of  'em  enough  to  shake  the  tree 
Of  life  itself  and  bring  down  fruit  unheard-of — 
And,  throwing  in  the  bruised  and  whole  together, 
Prepare  a  wine  to  make  us  drunk  with  wonder; 
And  if  he  live,  there'll  be  a  sunset  spell 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON  157 

Thrown  over  him  as  over  a  glassed  lake 
That  yesterday  was  all  a  black  wild  water. 

God  send  he  live  to  give  us,  if  no  more, 

What  now's  a-rampage  in  him,  and  exhibit, 

With  a  decent  half-allegiance  to  the  ages 

An  earnest  of  at  least  a  casual  eye 

Turned  once  on  what  he  owes  to  Gutenberg, 

And  to  the  fealty  of  more  centuries 

Than  are  as  yet  a  picture  in  our  vision. 

"There's  time  enough — I'll  do  it  when  I'm  old, 

And  we're  immortal  men,"  he  says  to  that; 

And  then  he  says  to  me,  "Ben,  what's  'immortal1? 

Think  you  by  any  force  of  ordination 

It  may  be  nothing  of  a  sort  more  noisy 

Than  a  small  oblivion  of  component  ashes 

That  of  a  dream-addicted  world  was  once 

A  moving  atomy  much  like  your  friend  here?" 

Nothing  will  help  that  man.  To  make  him  laugh 

I  said  then  he  was  a  mad  mountebank — 

And  by  the  Lord  I  nearer  made  him  cry. 

I  could  have  cat  an  eft  then,  on  my  knees, 

Tails,  claws,  and  all  of  him;  for  I  had  stung 

The  king  of  men,  who  had  no  sting  for  me, 

And  I  had  hurt  him  in  his  memories; 

And  I  say  now,  as  I  shall  say  again, 

I  love  the  man  this  side  idolatry. 

He'll  do  it  when  he's  old,  he  says.  I  wonder. 

He  may  not  be  so  ancient  as  all  that. 

For  such  as  he  the  thing  that  is  to  do 

Will  do  itself — but  there's  a  reckoning; 

The  sessions  that  aic  now  too  much  his  own, 

The  roiling  inward  of  a  still  outside, 

The  churning  out  of  all  those  blood-fed  lines, 

The  nights  of  many  schemes  and  little  sleep, 

The  full  brain  hammered  hot  with  too  much  thinking, 

The  vexed  heart  over-worn  with  too  much  aching — 

This  weary  jangling  of  conjoined  affairs 

Made  out  of  elements  that  have  no  end, 

And  all  confused  at  once,  I  understand, 

Is  not  what  makes  a  man  to  live  forever. 

O,  no,  not  now'  He'll  not  be  going  now: 

There'll  be  time  yet  for  God  knows  what  explosions 

Before  he  goes.  He'll  stay  awhile.  Just  wait: 

Just  wait  a  year  or  two  for  Cleopatra, 

For  she's  to  be  a  balsam  and  a  comfort; 

And  that's  not  all  a  jape  of  mine  now,  either. 

For  granted  once  the  old  way  of  Apollo 

Sings  in  a  man,  he  may  then,  if  he's  able, 

Strike  unafraid  whatever  strings  he  will 

Upon  the  last  and  wildest  of  new  lyres; 

Nor  out  of  his  new  magic,  though  it  hymn 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 

The  shrieks  of  dungeoned  hell,  shall  he  create 

A  madness  or  a  gloom  to  shut  quite  out 

A  cleaving  daylight,  and  a  last  great  calm 

Triumphant  over  shipwreck  and  all  storms. 

He  might  have  given  Aristotle  creeps, 

But  surely  would  have  given  him  his  Catharsis. 

Hell  not  be  going  yet.  There's  too  much  yet 

Unsung  within  the  man.  But  when  he  goes, 

I'd  stake  ye  coin  o'  the  realm  his  only  care 

For  a  phantom  world  he  sounded  and  found  wanting 

Will  be  a  portion  here,  a  portion  there, 

Of  this  or  that  thing  or  some  other  thing 

That  has  a  patent  and  intrinsical 

Equivalence  in  those  egregious  shillings. 

And  yet  he  knows,  God  help  him!  Tell  me,  now, 

If  ever  there  was  anything  let  loose 

On  earth  by  gods  or  devils  heretofore 

Like  this  mad,  careful,  proud,  indifferent  Shakespeare! 

Where  was  it,  if  it  ever  was?  By  heaven, 

'Twas  never  yet  in  Rhodes  or  Pergamon — 

In  Thebes  or  Nmcvch,  a  thing  like  this' 

No  thing  like  this  was  ever  out  of  England; 

And  that  he  knows.  I  wonder  if  he  cares. 

Perhaps  he  does.  .  .  .  O  Lord,  that  House  in  Stratford! 


NEW    ENGLAND 

Here  where  the  wind  is  always  north-north-east 
And  children  learn  to  walk  on  frozen  toes, 
Wonder  begets  an  envy  of  all  those 
Who  boil  elsewhere  with  such  a  lyric  yeast 
Of  love  that  you  will  hear  them  at  a  feast 
Where  demons  would  appeal  for  some  repose, 
Still  clamoring  where  the  chalice  overflows 
And  crying  wildest  who  have  drunk  the  least. 

Passion  is  here  a  soilure  of  the  wits, 
We're  told,  and  Love  a  cross  for  them  to  bear; 
Joy  shivers  in  the  corner  where  she  knits 
And  Conscience  always  has  the  rocking-chair, 
Cheerful  as  when  she  tortured  into  fits 
The  first  cat  that  was  ever  killed  by  Care. 

THE    GIFT   OF    GOD  That  she  may  scarcely  bear  the  weight 

Blessed  with  a  ,oy  that  only  she  O£  her  b«wild«ing  reward. 
Of  all  alive  shall  ever  know, 

She  wears  a  proud  humility  As  one  apart,  immune,  alone, 

For  what  it  was  that  willed  it  so, —  Or  featured  for  the  shining  ones, 

That  her  degree  should  be  so  great  And  like  to  none  that  she  has  known 

Among  the  favored  of  the  Lord  Of  other  women's  other  sons, — 


EDWIN  ARLINGTON  ROBINSON 


'59 


The  firm  fruition  of  her  need, 
He  shines  anointed;  and  he  blurs 
Her  vision,  till  it  seems  indeed 
A  sacrilege  to  call  him  hers. 

She  fears  a  little  for  so  much 
Of  what  is  best,  and  hardly  dares 
To  think  of  him  as  one  to  touch 
With  aches,  indignities,  and  cares; 
She  sees  him  rather  at  the  goal, 
Still  shining;  and  her  dream  foretells 
The  proper  shining  of  a  soul 
Where  nothing  ordinary  dwells. 

Perchance  a  canvass  of  the  town 
Would  find  him  far  from  flags  and  shouts, 
And  leave  him  only  the  renown 
Of  many  smiles  and  many  doubts; 
Perchance  the  crude  and  common  tongue 
Would  havoc  strangely  with  his  worth; 


But  she,  with  innocence  unwrung. 
Would  read  his  name  aiound  the  earth. 

And  others,  knowing  how  this  youth 
Would  shine,  it  love  could  make  him  great, 
When  caught  and  tortured  for  the  truth 
Would  only  writhe  and  hesitate; 
While  she,  arranging  for  his  days 
What  centuries  could  not  fulfill, 
Transmutes  him  with  her  faith  and  praise, 
And  has  him  shining  where  she  will. 

She  crowns  him  with  her  gratefulness, 

And  says  again  that  life  is  good; 

And  should  the  gift  of  God  be  less 

In  him  than  in  her  motherhood, 

His  fame,  though  vague,  will  not  be  small, 

As  upward  through  her  dream  he  fares, 

Half  clouded  with  a  crimson  fall 

Of  roses  thrown  on  marble  stairs. 


THE    PRODIGAL    SON 

You  are  not  merry,  brother.  Why  not  laugh, 
As  I  do,  and  acclaim  the  fatted  calf? 
For,  unless  ways  arc  changing  hcie  at  home, 
You  might  not  have  it  if  I  had  not  come. 
And  were  I  not  a  thing  for  you  and  me 
To  execrate  m  anguish,  you  would  be 
As  indigent  a  stranger  to  surprise, 
I  fear,  as  I  was  once,  and  as  unwise. 
Brother,  believe  as  I  do,  it  is  best 
For  you  that  I'm  again  in  the  old  nest — 
Draggled,  I  grant  you,  but  your  brother  still, 
Full  of  good  wine,  good  viands,  and  good  will. 
You  will  thank  God,  some  day,  that  I  returned, 
And  may  be  singing  for  what  you  have  learned, 
Some  other  day;  and  one  day  you  may  find 
Yourself  a  little  nearer  to  mankind. 
And  having  hated  me  till  you  are  tired, 
You  will  begin  to  see,  as  if  inspired, 
It  was  fate's  way  of  educating  us. 
Remembering  then  when  you  were  venomous, 
You  will  be  glad  enough  that  I  am  gone, 
But  you  will  know  more  of  what's  going  on; 
For  you  will  see  more  of  what  makes  it  go, 
And  in  more  ways  than  are  for  you  to  know. 
We  are  so  different  when  we  are  dead, 
That  you,  alive,  may  weep  for  what  you  said; 
And  I,  the  ghost  of  one  you  could  not  save, 
May  find  you  planting  lentils  on  my  grave. 


160  EDGAR  LEE  MASTERS 


Edgar  Lee  Masters 

EDGAR  LEE  MASTERS  was  born  at  Garnett,  Kansas,  August  23,  1869,  of  Puritan  and 
pioneering  stock.  When  he  was  still  a  boy,  the  family  moved  to  Illinois,  where, 
after  desultory  schooling,  he  studied  law  m  his  father's  office  at  Lewiston.  For  a  year 
he  practiced  with  his  father  and  then  went  to  Chicago,  where  he  became  a  successful 
attorney.  Before  going  to  Chicago,  Masters  had  composed  a  quantity  of  rhymed 
verse  in  traditional  forms  on  traditional  themes;  by  the  time  he  was  twenty-four  he 
had  written  about  four  hundred  poems,  the  result  of  wide  reading  and  the  influence 
of  Poe,  Keats,  Shelley,  and  Swinburne. 

Masters'  first  volume  of  poems,  published  in  his  twenty-ninth  year,  was  modestly 
entitled  (perhaps  with  an  implied  bow  to  Omar  Khayyam)  A  Boo^  of  Verses. 
With  even  greater  modesty  his  second  volume,  The  Blood  of  the  Prophets  (1905), 
was  signed  with  a  pseudonym,  "Dexter  Wallis."  For  the  third  book,  Songs  and 
Sonnets  (1910),  Masters  adopted  another  pseudonym  composed,  this  time,  of  the 
names  of  two  Elizabethan  dramatists:  "Webster  Ford."  Meanwhile,  under  his 
own  name,  the  author  had  published  several  plays — Maximilian  (1902),  Althca 
(1907),  The  Tnfler  (1908),  The  Leaves  of  the  Tree  (1909),  Eileen  (1910),  The 
Locket  (1910) — and  a  set  of  essays,  The  New  Star  Chamber  (1904). 

Although  industry  is  evident  in  the  number  and  variety  of  these  volumes  there 
is  little  to  indicate  the  vigor  and  driving  honesty  which  propelled  the  succeeding 
work.  Masters  himself  felt  uncertain  of  his  future,  crippled  by  his  environment. 
"I  feel  that  no  poet  in  English  or  American  history  had  a  harder  life  than  mine 
was  in  the  beginning  at  Lewiston,"  he  wrote  in  his  autobiography,  Aooss  Spoon 
River  (1936),  "among  a  people  whose  flesh  and  whose  vibrations  were  better  cal- 
culated to  poison,  to  pervert,  and  even  to  kill  a  sensitive  nature." 

Masters  left  Lewiston  for  Chicago  and  became  the  partner  of  a  famous  criminal 
lawyer.  Eight  years  later,  his  partner  defaulted,  professional  and  political  enemies 
combined  against  him,  and  he  plunged  into  the  excited  Chicago  literary  "move- 
ment" of  1912. 

In  1914,  Masters,  at  the  suggestion  of  his  friend,  William  Marion  Reedy,  turned 
from  his  preoccupation  with  classic  subjects  and  began  to  draw  upon  the  life  he 
knew  for  those  concise  records  which  made  him  famous.  Taking  as  his  model  The 
Gice\  Anthology,  which  Reedy  had  pressed  upon  him,  Masters  evolved  Spoon  River 
Anthology,  that  astonishing  assemblage  of  over  two  hundred  self-inscribed  epitaphs, 
in  which  the  dead  of  a  Middle  Western  town  are  supposed  to  have  written  the  truth 
about  themselves.  Through  these  frank  revelations,  many  of  them  interrelated,  the 
village  is  re-created;  it  lives  again  with  all  its  intrigues,  hypocrisies,  feuds,  martyr- 
doms and  occasional  exaltations.  The  monotony  of  existence  in  a  drab  township, 
the  defeat  of  ideals,  the  struggle  toward  higher  goals  are  synthesized  in  these 
crowded  pages.  All  moods  and  all  manner  of  voices  arc  heard  here — even  Masters', 
who  explains  the  selection  of  his  form  through  "Petit,  the  Poet/' 

The  success  of  the  volume  was  extraordinary.  With  every  new  attack  (and  its 
frankness  continued  to  make  fresh  enemies)  its  readers  increased.  It  was  imitated, 
parodied,  reviled  as  "a  piece  of  yellow  journalism";  it  was  hailed  as  "an  American 


EDGAR  LEE  MASTERS  161 

Comedie  Humaine."  Finally,  after  the  storm  of  controversy,  it  has  taken  its  plate 
as  a  landmark  in  American  literature. 

With  Spoon  River  Anthology  Masters  arrived — and  left.  He  went  back  to  his  first 
rhetorical  style,  resurrecting  many  of  his  earlier  trifles,  reprinting  dull  echoes  of 
Tennyson,  imitations  of  Shelley,  archaic  paraphrases  in  the  manner  of  Swinburne. 
Yet  though  none  of  Masters'  subsequent  volumes  can  be  compared  to  his  master- 
piece, all  of  them  contain  passages  of  the  same  straightforwardness  and  the  stubborn 
searching  that  intensified  his  best-known  characterizations. 

Songs  and  Satnes  (1916)  includes  the  startling  "All  Life  in  a  Life"  and  the 
gravely  moving  "Silence."  The  Gtcat  Valley  (1917)  is  packed  with  echoes  and  a 
growing  dependence  on  Browning.  In  Towatd  the  Gulf  (1918),  the  Browning 
influence  predominates.  Starved  Roct^  (1919),  Domesday  Boo^  (1920)  and  The 
New  Spoon  River  (1924)  are  queerly  assembled  mixtures  of  good,  bad,  and  deriva- 
tive verse.  These  volumes  prepared  us  for  the  novels  which,  in  their  mixture  of 
sharp  concept  and  dull  writing,  were  as  uneven  as  his  verse.  The  Pate  of  the  Juiy 
(1929)  is  a  continuation  of  Domesday  Boo\  with  its  mechanics  suggested  by  The 
Ring  and  the  Bool{,  large  in  outline,  feeble  in  detail.  Godbey  (1931)  is  a  dramatic 
poem  containing  six  thousand  lines  of  rhymed  verse  with  a  few  sharply  projected 
ideas,  an  occasionally  vivid  scene,  and  literally  thousands  of  pedestrian  couplets 
given  over  to  debate  and  diatribe.  Invisible  Landscapes  (1935)  contains  several 
ambitious  poems  devoted  to  varying  manifestations  of  Nature,  but  they  are  impres- 
sive chiefly  in  length.  One  has  only  to  compare  Masters'  "Hymn  to  Earth"  with 
Elinor  Wylic's  poem  of  the  same  title  to  realize  the  difference  between  clairvoyance 
and  doggedness. 

Between  1935  and  1938  Masters  was  more  prolific  than  ever.  In  less  than  three 
years  he  published  a  long  autobiography,  a  novel,  three  biographies,  three  books 
of  poems — eight  volumes  of  declining  merit.  One  of  them,  The  New  World  (1937), 
was  a  quasi-epic  which  attempted  to  synthesize  history  and  philosophy,  law  and 
literature.  Poems  of  People  (1936)  was  the  best  of  the  six;  it  marked  a  return  to 
Masters'  power  of  characterization  plus  a  wider  range  than  he  had  ever  accom- 
plished. The  manner  was  equally  varied,  alternating  from  the  gracefully  lyrical 
"Week-End  by  the  Sea"  to  the  deeply  etched  "Widows,"  which  contrasts  the  women 
living  in  "forsakeness  and  listless  ease"  with  their  menial  sisters. 

Mote  People  (1939)  again  reveals  Masters  as  a  grim  historian  of  American  life, 
lonely  and  bitter,  but  frequently  turning  the  minutiae  of  history  into  poetry.  The 
prairie  section  where  Masters  was  born  and  where  he  grew  up  is  spread  out  in  the 
indigenous  Illinois  Poems  (1941),  in  which  the  poet  demonstrates  his  early  environ- 
ment and  his  late  nostalgia.  In  spite  of  his  repetitions  and  rhetoric,  Masters'  work 
is  a  continual  if  irritable  quest  for  some  key  to  the  mystery  of  truth  and  the  mas- 
tery of  life.  And  there  is  always  that  milestone,  the  original  Spoon  River  Anthology. 

WEEK-END    BY    THE    SEA 

I 

Far  off  the  sea  is  gray  and  still  as  the  sky, 

Great  waves  roar  to  the  shore  like  conch  shells  water-groined. 


162  EDGAR  LEE  MASTERS 

With  a  flapping  coat  I  step,  brace  back  as  the  wind  drags  by; 
No  ship  as  far  as  the  seam  where  the  sea  and  the  sky  are  joined. 

I  am  watched  from  the  hotel,  I  think.  Who  faces  the  cold? 

Why  does  he  walk  alone?  'Tis  a  bitter  day. 

But  I  trade  dreams  with  the  sea,  for  the  sea  is  old, 

And  knows  the  dreams  of  a  heart  whose  dreams  are  gray. 

Two  apple  trees  alone  in  the  waste  on  a  sandy  ledge, 
Grappled  and  woven  together  with  sprouts  in  a  blackened  mesh, 
They  are  dead  almost  at  the  roots,  but  nourish  the  sedge; 
They  are  dead  and  at  truce,  like  souls  of  outlived  flesh. 

I  have  startled  a  gull  to  flight.  I  thought  him  a  wave: 
White  of  his  wings  seemed  foam,  breast  hued  like  the  sand-hued  roll. 
When  a  part  of  the  sea  takes  wing  you  would  think  that  the  grave 
Of  dead  days  might  release  to  the  heights  a  soul. 

ii 

I  slept  as  the  day  was  ending:  scarlet  and  gilt 
Behind  the  Japan  screen  of  shrubs  and  trees. 
I  awoke  to  the  scabbard  of  night  and  the  starry  hilt 
Of  the  sunken  sun,  to  the  old  uncase. 

Sleeping,  a  void  in  my  heart  is  awake; 
Waking,  there  is  the  moon  and  the  wind's  moan. 
I  would  I  were  as  the  sea  that  can  break 
Over  the  rocks,  indifferent  and  alone. 

in 

I  have  climbed  to  the  little  burial  plot  of  the  lost 
In  wrecks  at  sea.  West  of  me  lies  the  town. 
Below  are  the  apple  trees,  pulling  each  other  down. 
Children  are  romping  to  school,  ruddy  from  frost. 

How  the  wind  grieves  around  these  weedy  wisps. 
And  shakes  them  like  a  dog,  sniffing  from  patch  to  patch. 
I  try  the  battered  gate,  lift  up  the  latch, 
And  enter  where  the  grass  like  a  thistle  lisps. 

Lost  at  sea'  Nothing  thought  out  or  planned' 
What  need"5  Thought  enough  in  a  moment  that  battles  a  wave! 
What  words  tell  more?  And  where  is  the  hand  to  'grave 
Words  that  tell  so  much  for  the  lost  on  land? 


WIDOWS 

For  twenty  years  and  more  surviving  after 

Their  husbands  have  been  hidden  away, 

Gray,  old,  thin,  or  obese,  day  after  day 

Pillowed  in  luxury,  waking  with  quavering  laughter 

From  the  drowsiness  of  midday  food, 

They  sit,  fingering  long  strands  of  crystals, 

Reading  a  little  in  a  waking  mood; 


EDGAR  LEE  MASTERS  163 

Or  waiting  for  the  postman  with  epistles, 

Or  for  telephones,  or  callers  coming  to  tea. 

Bonds,  stocks,  are  theirs;  or  pensions  it  may  be, 

Since  the  long-dead  husband,  under-salaried, 

Helped  to  subdue  some  barbarous  isle; 

Now  that  he  lies  with  the  half-forgotten  dead, 

His  widow  draws  an  honorarium, 

To  prop  her  prestige  yet  a  little  while. 

The  public  treasury  is  rich,  and  feels 

The  drain  but  little;  yet  it  is  a  sum 

Which  would  relieve  the  anxious  mind  whose  zeals 

For  thought  and  progress  dread  the  time  to  come. 

In  the  hives  of  all  the  cities,  high  above 

The  smoke  and  noise,  where  the  air  is  pure, 

Are  numberless  widows,  comfortable  and  secure, 

Protected  by  the  watchman  and  God's  love; 

Saved  by  the  Church,  and  by  the  lawyer  served, 

And  by  the  actor,  dancer,  novelist  amused. 

Some  practise  poetry;  some,  who  are  younger  nerved, 

Dabble  in  sculpture;  but  all  are  used 

To  win  the  attention  of  celebrities 

At  dinners,  or  at  the  opera,  to  imbibe 

The  high  vitality  of  purchased  devotees. 

But  when  not  modeling,  or  scribbling  verse, 

Nor  drinking  tea,  nor  tottering  forth  to  dine, 

They  sit  concocting  some  new  bribe 

To  life  for  soul  relief;  they  count  what's  in  their  purse; 

They  stare  at  the  window  half  asleep  from  wine 

Or  poppy  juice;  they  wait  the  luncheon  hour; 

They  visit  with  their  maids;  or  they  receive 

The  heads  of  research  schools,  the  which  they  dower, 

Or  magazines,  the  better  to  achieve 

A  place  in  memory  or  a  present  power; 

Or  out  of  social  bitterness  they  dictate 

The  policies  of  journals,  and  compel 

Adherence  to  their  husbands'  inveterate 

Violence,  like  souls  that  brood  in  hell. 

From  rents  and  funds,  prescriptions,  old  mortmains 

They  gather  with  fingers  brown  fron^  moldy  spots 

Exhaustless  gold,  with  which  they  feed  the  veins 

Of  palsied  privilege,  and  they  foil  the  plots 

Of  living  generations  against  the  dying  brains. 

The  hives  of  all  the  cities  are  full  of  these 

Widows,  who  in  a  complexity  of  combs 

Live  in  forsakeness  and  listless  ease: 

All  is  deserted  about  them  in  such  homes. 

Long  has  the  rain  fallen,  and  the  snow  been  piled 

On  the  man  under  the  trees  outdoors; 

Even  the  bones  in  granite  domiciled 

Have  fallen  apart — but  still  the  widow  sits 


164  EDGAR  LEE  MASTERS 

By  the  window  resting  above  the  city's  floors. 

The  drone,  the  gadfly,  or  the  hornet  flits 

About  her  lifeless  hive;  and  she  may  gasp 

Beholding  at  times  the  black  bees  of  the  rites 

Of  dead  men,  drag  a  fallen  bee  or  wasp 

To  the  outdoors  of  ram  or  starry  nights. 

And  then  she  shudders,  knowing  the  time  is  soon 

When  the  chaufTeur  of  the  ebon  car  will  call 

To  take  her  from  the  city  where  the  moon 

Will  eye  the  loneliness  of  hills;  and  all 

Her  crystal  necklaces  and  possessions  will  be  strewn; 

And  all  the  rentals  of  her  lands, 

And  dividends  will  re-assume  with  wings 

New  shapes  before  the  same  insatiate  hands. 

And  in  the  city  there  are  numberless  women, 
Widows  grown  old  and  lame,  who  scrub,  or  wait 
On  entrance  doors,  or  cook;  whose  lonely  fate 
Is  part  of  the  city's  pageant,  part  of  the  human 
Necessity,  victims  of  profligate 
Or  unprevisioned  life'  They  have  no  spoil, 
No  dividends,  and  no  power  of  subsidy 
Over  the  world  of  care  and  poverty; 
They  have  but  patience  and  a  little  room, 
Patience  and  the  withered  hands  of  toil. 


PETIT,    THE    POET 

Seeds  in  a  dry  pod,  tick,  tick,  tick, 

Tick,  tick,  tick,  like  mites  in  a  quarrel — 

Faint  iambics  that  the  full  breeze  wakens — 

But  the  pine  tree  makes  a  symphony  thereof. 

Triolets,  vilLmelles,  rondels,  rondeaus. 

Ballades  by  the  score  with  the  same  old  thought- 

The  snows  and  the  roses  of  yesterday  arc  vanished; 

And  what  is  love  but  a  rose  that  fades ? 

Life  all  around  me  here  in  the  village: 

Tragedy,  comedy,  valor  and  truth, 

Courage,  constancy,  heroism,  failure — 

All  in  the  loom,  and,  oh,  what  patterns! 

Woodlands,  meadows,  streams  and  rivers — 

Blind  to  all  of  it  all  my  life  long. 

Triolets,  villanelles,  rondels,  rondeaus, 

Seeds  in  a  dry  pod,  tick,  tick,  tick, 

Tick,  tick,  tick,  what  little  iambics, 

While  Homer  and  Whitman  roared  in  the  pines! 

LUCINDA    MATLOCK 

I  went  to  the  dances  at  Chandlerville, 
And  played  snap-out  at  Winchester. 
One  time  we  changed  partners, 


EDGAR  LEE  MASTERS  165 

Driving  home  in  the  moonlight  of  middle  June, 

And  then  I  found  Davis. 

We  were  married  and  lived  together  for  seventy  years, 

Enjoying,  working,  raising  the  twelve  children, 

Eight  of  whom  we  lost 

Ere  I  had  reached  the  age  of  sixty. 

I  spun,  I  wove,  I  kept  the  house,  I  nursed  the  sick, 

I  made  the  garden,  and  for  holiday 

Rambled  over  the  fields  where  sang  the  larks, 

And  by  Spoon  River  gathering  many  a  shell, 

And  many  a  flower  and  medicinal  weed — 

Shouting  to  the  wooded  hills,  singing  to  the  green  valleys. 

At  ninety-six  I  had  lived  enough,  that  is  all, 

And  passed  to  a  sweet  repose. 

What  is  this  I  hear  of  sorrow  and  weariness, 

Anger,  discontent  and  drooping  hopes? 

Degenerate  sons  and  daughters, 

Life  is  too  strong  for  you — 

It  takes  life  to  love  Life. 


ANNE    RUTLEDGE 

Out  of  me  unworthy  and  unknown 

The  vibrations  of  deathless  music: 

"With  malice  toward  none,  with  charity  for  all." 

Out  of  me  the  forgiveness  of  millions  toward  millions, 

And  the  beneficent  face  of  a  nation 

Shining  with  justice  and  truth. 

I  am  Anne  Rutledge  who  sleep  beneath  these  weeds, 

Beloved  in  life  of  Abraham  Lincoln, 

Wedded  to  him,  not  through  union, 

But  through  separation. 

Bloom  forever,  O  Republic, 

From  the  dust  of  my  bosom! 

SILENCE 

I  have  known  the  silence  of  the  stars  and  of  the  sea, 

And  the  silence  of  the  city  when  it  pauses, 

And  the  silence  of  a  man  and  a  maid, 

And  the  silence  for  which  music  alone  finds  the  word, 

And  the  silence  of  the  woods  before  the  winds  of  spring  begin, 

And  the  silence  of  the  sick  . 

When  their  eyes  roam  about  the  room. 

And  I  ask:  For  the  depths 

Of  what  use  is  language? 

A  beast  of  the  field  moans  a  few  times 

When  death  takes  its  young. 

And  we  are  voiceless  in  the  presence  of  realities — 

We  cannot  speak. 


/66  EDGAR  LEE  MASTERS 

A  curious  boy  asks  an  old  soldier 

Sitting  in  front  of  the  grocery  store, 

"How  did  you  lose  your  leg?" 

And  the  old  soldier  is  struck  with  silence, 

Or  his  mind  flies  away 

Because  he  cannot  concentrate  it  on  Gettysburg. 

It  comes  back  jocosely 

And  he  says,  "A  bear  bit  it  off." 

And  the  boy  wonders,  while  the  old  soldier 

Dumbly,  feebly  lives  over 

The  flashes  of  guns,  the  thunder  of  cannon, 

The  shrieks  of  the  slain, 

And  himself  lying  on  the  ground, 

And  the  hospital  surgeons,  the  knives, 

And  the  long  days  in  bed. 

But  if  he  could  describe  it  all 

He  would  be  an  artist. 

But  if  he  were  an  artist  there  would  be  deeper  wounds 

Which  he  could  not  describe. 

There  is  the  silence  of  a  great  hatred, 

And  the  silence  of  a  great  love, 

And  the  silence  of  a  deep  peace  of  mind, 

And  the  silence  of  an  embittered  friendship, 

There  is  the  silence  of  a  spiritual  crisis, 

Through  which  your  soul,  exquisitely  tortured, 

Comes  with  visions  not  to  be  uttered 

Into  a  realm  of  higher  life. 

And  the  silence  of  the  gods  who  understand  each  other  without  speech, 

There  is  the  silence  of  defeat. 

There  is  the  silence  of  those  unjustly  punished; 

And  the  silence  of  the  dying  whose  hand 

Suddenly  grips  yours. 

There  is  the  silence  between  father  and  son, 

When  the  father  cannot  explain  his  life, 

Even  though  he  be  misunderstood  for  it. 

There  is  the  silence  that  comes  between  husband  and  wife» 

There  is  the  silence  of  those  who  have  failed; 

And  the  vast  silence  that  covers 

Broken  nations  and  vanquished  leaders. 

There  is  the  silence  of  Lincoln, 

Thinking  of  the  poverty  of  his  youth. 

And  the  silence  of  Napoleon 

After  Waterloo. 

And  the  silence  of  Jeanne  d'Arc 

Saying  amid  the  flames,  "Blessed  Jesus" — 

Revealing  in  two  words  all  sorrow,  all  hope. 

And  there  is  the  silence  of:  age, 

Too  full  of  wisdom  for  the  tongue  to  utter  it 

In  words  intelligible  to  those  who  have  not  lived 

The  great  range  of  life. 


EDGAR  LEE  MASTERS 


And  there  is  the  silence  of  the  dead. 

If  we  who  are  in  life  cannot  speak 

Of  profound  experiences, 

Why  do  you  marvel  that  the  dead 

Do  not  tell  you  of  death? 

Their  silence  shall  be  interpreted 

As  we  approach  them. 


Stephen  Crane 

STEPHEN  CRANE,  whose  literary  career  was  one  of  the  most  meteoric  in  American 
O  letters,  was  born  in  Newark,  New  Jersey,  November  i,  1871.  Atter  taking  a  par- 
tial course  at  Lafayette  College,  he  entered  journalism  at  sixteen  and,  until  the  time 
of  his  death,  was  a  reporter  and  writer  of  newspaper  sketches.  When  he  died  pre- 
maturely, at  the  age  of  thirty,  he  had  ten  printed  volumes  to  his  credit,  two  more 
announced  for  publication,  and  two  others  which  were  appearing  serially. 

Crane's  most  famous  novel,  The  Red  Badge  of  Coutage  (1895),  was  a  tour  de 
force,  written  when  he  was  twenty-two  years  old.  What  is  even  more  astonishing 
is  the  fact  that  this  detailed  description  of  blood  and  battlefields  was  written  by  a 
civilian  far  from  the  scene  of  conflict.  The  Atlantic  Monthly  pronounced  it  "great 
enough  to  set  a  new  fashion  in  literature";  H.  G.  Wells,  speaking  of  its  influence 
in  England,  said  Crane  was  "the  first  expression  of  the  opening  mind  of  a  new 
period  ...  a  record  of  intensity  beyond  all  precedent." 

Crane's  other  books,  although  less  powerful  than  The  Red  Badge  of  Courage, 
are  scarcely  less  vivid.  The  Open  Boat  (1898)  and  The  Monster  (1899)  are  full  of 
an  intuitive  wisdom  and  a  passionate  sensitivity  that  caused  Wells  to  exclaim, 
"The  man  who  can  call  these  4bnlliant  fragments'  would  reproach  Rodin  for  not 
'completing*  his  fragments." 

At  various  periods  in  Crane's  brief  career,  he  experimented  in  verse,  seeking  to 
find  new  effects  in  unrhymed  lines,  a  new  acutencss  of  symbol  and  vision.  The 
results  were  embodied  in  two  volumes  of  unusual  poetry — The  Elac\  Riders  (1895) 
and  War  Is  Kind  (1899),  lines  that  strangely  anticipated  the  Imagists  and  the  el- 
liptical free  verse  that  followed  fifteen  years  later.  Acidulous  and  biting,  these  con- 
cisions were  unappreciated  in  his  day;  Crane's  suggestive  verse  has  not  yet  received 
its  due  in  an  age  which  employs  its  very  technique.  But  it  was  forty  years  before 
Emily  Dickinson  won  her  rightful  audience,  and  a  quarter  of  a  century  passed  be- 
fore a  publisher  risked  a  Complete  Worlds  of  Stephen  Crane.  It  was  not  until  1930 
that  a  Collected  Poems  appeared. 

Besides  novels,  short  stories  and  poems,  Crane  was  writing,  at  the  time  of  his 
death,  descriptions  of  the  world's  great  battles  for  Lippincott's  Magazine;  his  droll 
Whilomville  Stones  for  boys  were  appearing  in  Harper  s  Monthly,  and  he  was 
beginning  a  series  of  similar  stories  for  girls.  It  is  more  than  probable  that  this 
feverish  energy  of  production  aggravated  the  illness  that  caused  Crane's  death.  He 
reached  hisTefuge  in  the  Black  Forest  only  to  die  at  the  journey's  end,  June  5,  1900. 


i68 


STEPHEN  CRANE 


I    SAW    A    MAN 

I  saw  a  man  pursuing  the  horizon; 
Round  and  round  they  sped. 
I  was  disturbed  at  this; 
I  accosted  the  man. 
"It  is  futile,"  I  said, 
"You  can  never — " 
"You  he,"  he  cried, 
And  ran  on. 


THE    WAYFARER 

The  wayfarer, 

Perceiving  the  pathway  to  truth, 

Was  struck  with  astonishment. 

It  was  thickly  grown  with  weeds. 

"Ha,"  he  said, 

"I  see  that  no  one  has  passed  here 

In  a  long  time." 

Later  he  saw  that  each  weed 

Was  a  singular  knife. 

"Well,"  he  mumbled  at  last, 

"Doubtless  there  are  other  roads." 


HYMN 

A  slant  of  sun  on  dull  brown  walls, 
A  forgotten  sky  of  bashful  blue. 

Toward  God  a  mighty  hymn, 

A  song  of  collisions  and  cries, 

Rumbling  wheels,  hoof-beats,  bells, 

Welcomes,  farewells,  love-calls,  final  moans, 

Voices  of  joy,  idiocy,  warning,  despair, 

The  unknown  appeals  of  brutes, 

The  chanting  of  flowers, 

The  screams  of  cut  trees, 

The  senseless  babble  of  hens  and  wise  men — 

A  cluttered  incoherency  that  says  to  the  stars: 

"O  God,  save  us!" 

THE    BLADES    OF    GRASS 

In  Heaven, 

Some  little  blades  of  grass 

Stood  before  God. 

"What  did  you  do?" 

Then  all  save  one  of  the  little  blades 

Began  eagerly  to  relate 

The  merits  of  their  lives. 


This  one  stayed  a  small  way  behind, 
Ashamed. 

Presently,  God  said, 

"And  what  did  you  do?" 

The  little  blade  answered,  "Oh,  my  Lord, 

Memory  is  bitter  to  me, 

For,  if  I  did  good  deeds, 

I  know  not  of  them." 

Then  God,  in  all  his  splendor, 

Arose  from  his  throne. 

"Oh,  best  little  blade  of  grass!"  he  said. 


THE    BOOK    OF    WISDOM 

I  met  a  seer. 

He  held  in  his  hands 

The  book  of  wisdom. 

"Sir,"  I  addressed  him, 

"Let  me  read." 

"Child-"  he  began. 

"Sir,"  I  said, 

"Think  not  that  I  am  a  child, 

For  already  I  know  much 

Of  that  which  you  hold; 

Aye,  much." 

He  smiled. 

Then  he  opened  the  book 
And  held  it  before  me. 
Strange  that  I  should  have  grown  so  sud- 
denly blind. 


THE    CANDID    MAN 

Forth  went  the  candid  man 
And  spoke  freely  to  the  wind — 
When  he  looked  about  him  he  was  in  a  far 
strange  country. 

Forth  went  the  candid  man 
And  spoke  freely  to  the  stars- 
Yellow  light  tore  sight  from  his  eyes. 

"My  good  fool,"  said  a  learned  bystander, 
"Your  operations  arc  mad." 

"You  are  too  candid,"  cried  the  candid  man. 
And  when  his  stick  left  the  head  of  the 

learned  bystander 
It  was  two  sticks. 


STEPHEN  CRANE 


169 


THE    HEART 


In  the  desert 

I  saw  a  creature,  naked,  bestial, 
Who,  squatting  upon  the  ground, 
Held  his  heart  in  his  hands, 


And  ate  of  it. 

I  said,  "Is  it  good,  friend ?" 

"It  is  bitter — bitter,"  he  answered; 

"But  I  like  it 

Because  it  is  bitter, 

And  because  it  is  my  heart." 


T.  A.  Daly 


AUGUSTINE  DALY  was  born  in  Philadelphia,  Pennsylvania,  May  28,  1871. 
-L  He  attended  Villanova  College  and  Fordham  University,  but  quit  education 
at  the  end  of  his  sophomore  year  to  become  a  newspaper  man  Since  1891  he  has 
been  with  various  Philadelphia  journals,  writing  reviews,  editorials,  travel-notes  and, 
chiefly,  running  the  columns  in  which  his  verse  originally  appeared. 

Canzoni  (1906)  and  Catmma  (1909)  contain  the  best  known  of  Daly's  varied 
dialect  verse.  Although  he  has  written  in  half  a  dozen  diflercnt  idioms  including 
"straight"  English  (vide  Songs  of  Wedlocl^,  1916)  his  half-humorous,  hdlf-patheuc 
interpretations  of  the  Irish  and  Italian  immigrants  are  his  foite.  "Mia  Carlotta"  and 
"Between  Two  Loves"  rank  with  the  best  dialect  rhyming  of  the  period. 

Seldom  descending  to  caricature,  Daly  exhibits  the  foibles  of  his  characters  with- 
out exploiting  them;  even  the  lightest  passages  in  Me  Atom  Ballads  (1919)  are  done 
with  delicacy  and  a  not  too  sentimental  appreciation.  Less  popular  than  Riley  or 
Dunbar,  Daly  is  more  skillful  and  versatile  than  either;  his  range  and  quality  are 
comparable  to  Field's. 


MIA    CARLOTTA 

Giuseppe,  da  barber,  ees  greata  for  "mash," 
He  gotta  da  bigga,  da  blacka  mustache, 
Good  clo'es  an'  good  styla  an'  playnta  good  cash. 

W'enevra  Giuseppe  ccs  walk  on  da  street, 
Da  people  dey  talka,  "how  nobby t  how  neat' 
How  softa  da  handa,  how  smalla  da  feet." 

He  raisa  hees  hat  an*  he  shaka  hees  curls, 
An'  smila  weeth  teetha  so  shiny  like  pearls; 
O!  many  da  heart  of  da  scely  young  girls 

He  gotta. 
Yes,  playnta  he  gotta — 

But  notta 

Carlotta! 

Giuseppe,  da  barber,  he  maka  da  eye, 
An'  lika  da  steam  engine  pufla  an'  sigh, 
For  catena  Carlotta  w'en  she  ces  go  by. 


i7o  T.  A.  DALY 

Carlotta  she  walka  weeth  nose  in  da  air, 

An*  look  through  Giuseppe  weeth  tar-away  stare, 

As  eef  she  no  see  clere  ees  somebody  derc. 

Giuseppe,  da  barber,  he  gotta  da  cash, 
He  gotta  da  clo'es  an'  da  bigga  mustache, 
He  gotta  da  seely  young  girls  for  da  "mash," 

But  notta— 
You  bat  my  life,  notta — 

Carlotta. 

I  gotta! 


BETWEEN    TWO    LOVES 

I  gotta  lov'  for  Angela, 

I  lov'  Carlotta,  too. 
I  no  can  marry  both  o'  dem, 

So  w'at  I  gonna  do? 

O'  Angela  ees  pretta  girl, 
She  gotta  hair  so  black,  so  curl, 
An'  teeth  so  white  as  anytheeng. 
An'  O'  she  gotta  voice  to  seeng, 
Dat  mak'  your  hearta  feel  eet  must 
Jump  up  an'  dance  or  eet  weel  bust. 
An'  alia  time  she  seeng,  her  eyes 
Dey  smila  like  Itaha's  skies, 
An'  makin'  flirtin'  looks  at  you — 
But  dat  ees  all  w'at  she  can  do. 

Carlotta  ees  no  gotta  song, 

But  she  ees  twice  so  big  an'  strong 

As  Angela,  an'  she  no  look 

So  beautiful — but  she  can  cook. 

You  oughta  see  her  carry  wood' 

I  tal  you  w'at,  eet  do  you  good. 

When  she  ccs  be  som'body's  wife 

She  worka  hard,  you  bat  my  life! 

She  never  gattm'  tired,  too — 

But  dat  ees  all  w'at  she  can  do. 

O'  my'  I  weesh  dat  Angela 

Was  strong  for  carry  wood, 
Or  else  Carlotta  gotta  song 

An'  looka  pretta  good. 
I  gotta  lov'  for  Angela, 

I  lov'  Carlotta,  too. 
I  no  can  marry  both  o'  dem, 

So  w'at  I  gonna  do? 


JAMES   WELDON  JOHNSON  171 


James  Weldon  Johnson 

JAMES  WELDON  JOHNSON  was  born  in  Jacksonville,  Florida,  June  17,  1871.  He  was 
educated  at  Atlanta  University  and  at  Columbia  University,  where  he  received 
his  A.M.  He  was  principal  of  the  colored  high  school  in  Jacksonville,  was  admitted 
to  the  Florida  bar  in  1897,  and  in  1901  removed  to  New  York  City,  where  he  col- 
laborated with  his  brother  J.  Rosamond  Johnson  in  writing  for  vaudeville  and  the 
light  opera  stage.  He  served  seven  years  as  United  States  Consul  in  Venezuela  and 
Nicaragua,  became  secretary  of  the  National  Association  for  Advancement  of  Colored 
People,  and  occupied  the  chair  of  Creative  Literature  at  Fisk  University.  His  version 
of  the  libretto  of  Goyescas  was  produced  at  the  Metropolitan  Opera  House  in  1915. 
His  death  came  suddenly  and  tragically;  his  automobile  was  struck  by  a  railroad 
train  near  Wiscasset,  Maine,  June  26,  1938. 

His  first  book  of  verse  Fifty  Years  and  Other  Poems  (1918)  contains  much  that  is 
meretricious  and  facile;  but,  half  buried  in  the  midst  of  cliches,  there  is  not  only 
the  humor  but  the  stern  pathos  characteristic  of  the  Negro  as  singer.  This  quality 
was  pronounced  in  God's  Ttombones  (1927),  Johnson's  richest  book  of  poems.  The 
volume  consists  of  seven  Negro  sermons  in  verse,  done  after  the  manner  of  the  old 
Negro  plantation  sermons.  In  these  poems  the  folk-stuff  is  used  much  as  a  composer 
might  use  folk-themes  in  writing  a  larger  musical  composition.  "The  Creation"  and 
"Go  Down,  Death,"  in  particular  are  large  in  conception;  sonorous,  strongly 
rhythmical  free  verse,  reflecting  the  unctuous  periods,  the  uninhibited  imagery  of  the 
plantation  preacher.  They  and,  in  a  lesser  degree,  the  other  poems  in  God's  Trom- 
bones, are  a  rambling  mixture  of  Biblical  and  tropical  figures,  but  always  an  artis- 
tically governed  expression. 

Saint  Peter  Relates  an  Incident  of  the  Resurrection  Day  (privately  distributed  in 
1930  and  re-issued,  with  other  poems,  for  general  circulation  in  1935)  is  a  stirring 
expression  in  which  irony  masks  a  sense  of  outrage.  Johnson  was  at  work  on  the 
manuscript  of  a  book  when  he  picked  up  a  newspaper  and  read  that  the  govern- 
ment was  sending  to  France  a  contingent  of  Gold  Star  mothers  whose  soldier  sons 
were  buried  there,  but  that  the  Negro  Gold  Star  mothers  would  not  be  allowed  to 
sail  on  the  ship  with  the  white  mothers.  He  threw  the  manuscript  he  was  writing 
aside  and  did  not  take  it  up  until  he  had  finished  the  long  satirical  poem. 

Among  Johnson's  other  work  are  the  novel  The  Autobiography  of  an  Ex-Colored 
Man  (1912,  republished  in  1927),  Blac^  Manhattan  (1930),  the  story  of  the  Negro 
in  New  York,  and  the  eloquent  autobiography  Along  this  Way  (1933).  He  also 
collaborated  with  his  brother  in  the  two  collections  of  American  Negro  Spirituals 
in  1925  and  1926  and  edited  The  Eoo\  of  American  Negro  Poetry. 

THE    CREATION 

(A  Negto  Sermon) 

And  God  stepped  out  on  space, 
And  He  looked  around  and  said, 
"I'm  lonely— 
I'll  ma^e  me  a  world!' 


772  JAMES   WELDON  JOHNSON 

And  far  as  the  eye  of  God  could  see 
Darkness  covered  everything, 
Blacker  than  a  hundred  midnights 
Down  in  a  cypress  swamp. 

Then  God  smiled, 

And  the  light  broke, 

And  the  darkness  rolled  up  on  one  side, 

And  the  light  stood  shining  on  the  other, 

And  God  said,  "That's  good*" 

Then  God  reached  out  and  took  the  light  in  His  hands, 

And  God  rolled  the  light  around  in  His  hands, 

Until  He  made  the  sun; 

And  He  set  that  sun  a-blazing  in  the  heavens. 

And  the  light  that  was  left  from  making  the  sun 

God  gathered  up  in  a  shining  ball 

And  flung  against  the  darkness, 

Spangling  the  night  with  the  moon  and  stars. 

Then  down  between 

The  darkness  and  the  light 

He  hurled  the  world; 

And  God  said,  ''That's  good!" 

Then  God  himself  stepped  down — 
And  the  sun  was  on  His  right  hand, 
And  the  moon  was  on  His  left; 
The  stars  were  clustered  about  His  head, 
And  the  earth  was  under  His  feet. 
And  God  walked,  and  where  He  trod 
His  footsteps  hollowed  the  valleys  out 
And  bulged  the  mountains  up. 

Then  He  stopped  and  looked  and  saw 

That  the  earth  was  hot  and  barren. 

So  God  stepped  over  to  the  edge  of  the  world 

And  He  spat  out  the  seven  seas; 

He  batted  His  eyes,  and  the  lightnings  flashed; 

He  clapped  His  hands,  and  the  thunders  rolled; 

And  the  waters  above  the  earth  came  down, 

The  cooling  waters  came  down. 

Then  the  green  grass  sprouted, 

And  the  little  red  flowers  blossomed, 

The  pine-tree  pointed  his  finger  to  the  sky, 

And  the  oak  spread  out  his  arms; 

The  lakes  cuddled  down  in  the  hollows  of  the  ground, 

And  the  rivers  ran  down  to  the  sea; 

And  God  smiled  again, 

And  the  rainbow  appeared, 

And  curled  itself  around  His  shoulder. 


JAMES   WELDON  JOHNSON 

Then  God  raised  His  arm  and  He  waved  His  hand 

Over  the  sea  and  over  the  land, 

And  He  said,  "Bring  forth?  Bring  forth!" 

And  quicker  than  God  could  drop  His  hand, 

Fishes  and  fowls 

And  beasts  and  birds 

Swam  the  rivers  and  the  seas, 

Roamed  the  forests  and  the  woods, 

And  split  the  air  with  their  wings, 

And  God  said,  "That's  good!" 

Then  God  walked  around 

And  God  looked  around 

On  all  that  He  had  made. 

He  looked  at  His  sun, 

And  He  looked  at  His  moon, 

And  He  looked  at  His  little  stars; 

He  looked  on  His  world 

With  all  its  living  things, 

And  God  said,  "I'm  lonely  still" 

Then  God  sat  down 

On  the  side  of  a  hill  where  He  could  think; 

By  a  deep,  wide  river  He  sat  down; 

With  His  head  in  His  hands, 

God  thought  and  thought, 

Till  He  thought,  "/'//  mci^e  me  a  man!" 

Up  from  the  bed  of  the  river 

God  scooped  the  clay; 

And  by  the  bank  of  the  river 

He  kneeled  Him  down; 

And  there  the  great  God  Almighty, 

Who  lit  the  sun  and  fixed  it  in  the  sky, 

Who  flung  the  stars  to  the  most  far  comer  of  the  night, 

Who  rounded  the  earth  in  the  middle  ot  His  hand — 

This  Great  God, 

Like  a  mammy  bending  over  her  baby, 

Kneeled  down  in  the  dust 

Toiling  over  a  lump  of  clay 

Till  He  shaped  it  in  His  own  image; 

Then  into  it  He  blew  the  breath  of  life, 

And  man  became  a  living  soul. 

Amen.  Amen. 


PAUL  LAURENCE  DUNBAR 


Paul  Laurence  Dunbar 

PAUL  LAURENCE  DUNBAR  was  born  in  1  872  at  Dayton,  Ohio,  the  son  of  Negro  slaves. 
He  was,  before  and  after  he  began  to  write  his  verse,  an  elevator-boy.  He  tried 
newspaper  work  unsuccessfully  and,  in  1899,  was  given  a  position  in  the  Library  of 
Congress  at  Washington,  D.  C. 

Although  Dunbar  wrote  several  volumes  of  short  stories  and  two  novels,  he  was 
most  at  home  in  his  verse.  Even  here,  his  best  work  is  not  those  "literary  English" 
pieces  by  which  he  set  such  store,  but  the  racy  rhymes  written  in  Negro  dialect^ 
alternately  tender  and  mocking.  Dunbar's  first  collection,  Lyncs  of  Lowly  Life 
(1896),  contains  many  of  his  most  characteristic  poems.  In  an  introduction,  in  which 
mention  was  made  of  the  octoroon  Dumas  and  the  great  Russian  poet  Pushkin,  who 
was  a  mulatto,  William  Dean  Howelis  wrote,  "So  far  as  I  could  remember,  Paul 
Dunbar  was  the  first  man  of  pure  African  blood  and  of  American  civilization  to 
feel  the  Negro  life  esthetically  and  express  it  lyrically.  .  .  .  His  brilliant  and  unique 
achievement  was  to  have  studied  the  American  Negro  objectively,  and  to  have  rep- 
resented him  as  he  found  him  —  with  humor,  with  sympathy,  and  yet  with  what  the 
reader  must  instinctively  feel  to  be  entire  truthfulness."  Dunbar  was  the  precursor  of 
those  Negro  poets  who,  turning  away  trom  sentimentality,  genuinely  expressed  the 
Negro,  even  though  Dunbar  avoided  anything  which  seemed  "controversial." 

Lytics  of  the  Hearthside  (1899)  and  Lyncs  of  Love  and  Laughter  (1903)  are  two 
other  volumes  full  of  folk-stuff.  Though  the  final  Lyrics  of  Sunshine  and  Shadow 
(1905)  is  less  original,  being  crowded  with  echoes  of  all  kinds  of  poetry  from  the 
songs  of  Robert  Burns  to  the  childhood  rhymes  of  J.  W.  Riley,  it  contains  a  few  of 
Dunbar's  least  known  but  keenest  interpretations. 

Dunbar  died  in  his  birthplace,  Dayton,  Ohio,  February  9,  1906. 

THE  TURNING  OF  THE  BABIES  IN  THE  BED 

Woman's  sho'  a  cur'ous  critter,  an'  dey  ain't  no  doubtin'  dat. 
She's  a  mess  o'  funny  capahs  f'om  huh  shppahs  to  huh  hat. 
Ef  yo'  tries  to  un'erstan'  huh,  an'  yo'  fails,  des'  up  an'  say: 
"D'  ain't  a  bit  o'  use  to  try  to  un'erstan'  a  woman's  way." 

I  don'  mean  to  be  complainin',  but  I's  jes'  a-settm'  down 
Some  o'  my  own  obscrwations,  w'en  I  cas'  my  eye  eroun'. 
Ef  yo'  ax  me  fu'  to  prove  it,  I  ken  do  it  mighty  fine, 
Fu'  dey  ain't  no  bettah  'zample  den  dis  ve'y  wife  o'  mine. 

In  de  ve'y  hea't  o'  midnight,  w'en  I's  sleepin'  good  an*  soun', 

I  kin  hyeah  a  so't  o'  rustlin'  an'  somebody  movm'  'roun'. 

An'  I  say,  "Lize,  whut  yo'  doin'?"  But  she  frown  an'  shek  huh  haid, 

"Hesh  yo'  mouf,  I's  only  tu'nin'  of  de  chillun  in  de  bed. 

"Don*  yo'  know  a  chile  gits  restless,  layin'  all  de  night  one  way? 
An'  yo'  got  to  kind  o'  'range  him  sev'al  times  befo'  de  day? 
So  de  little  necks  won't  worry,  an'  de  little  backs  won't  break; 
Don'  yo'  t'mk  'cause  chillun's  chillun  dey  hamt  got  no  pain  an*  ache." 


PAUL  LAURENCE DUNBAR 

So  she  shakes  'cm,  an'  she  twists  'em,  an'  she  tu'ns  'cm  'roun'  erbout, 
'Twell  I  don'  sec  how  de  chillun  evah  keeps  f  om  hollahin'  out. 
Den  she  lif  s  'em  up  head  down'ards,  so's  dey  won't  git  livah-grown, 
But  dey  snoozes  des'  ez  peaceful  ez  a  hza'd  on  a  stone. 

Wen  hit's  mos'  nigh  time  fu'  wakin'  on  de  dawn  o'  jedgement  day, 
Seems  lak  I  km  hyeah  ol'  Gab'iel  lay  his  trumpet  down  an*  say, 
"Who  dat  walkin'  'roun'  so  easy,  down  on  carf  ermong  de  dead?" — 
'Twill  be  Lizy  up  a-tu'nm'  of  de  chillun  in  de  bed. 


'75 


A    COQUETTE    CONQUERED 

Yes,  my  ha't's  ez  ha'd  ez  stone — 
Go  'way,  Sam,  an'  lemme  'lone. 
No;  I  ain't  gwme  change  my  mm'; 
Ain't  gwme  ma'y  you — nuffin'  de  km*. 

Phmy  loves  you  true  an'  deah? 
Go  ma'y  Phmy;  whut  I  keer? 
Oh,  you  needn't  mou'n  an'  cry — 
I  don't  keer  how  soon  you  die. 

Got  a  present'  What  you  got? 
Somcf'n  fu'  de  pan  er  pot' 
Huh'  Yo'  sass  do  sholy  beat — 
Think  I  don't  git  'nough  to  eat? 

Whut's  dat  un'neaf  yo'  coat? 
Looks  des  lak  a  little  shoat. 
'Tain't  no  possum?  Bless  de  Lambl 
Yes,  it  is,  you  rascal,  Sam! 

Gin  it  to  me;  whut  you  say? 
Ain't  you  sma't'  Oh,  go  'way! 
Possum  do  look  mighty  nice; 
But  you  ax  too  big  a  price. 

Tell  me,  is  you  talkm'  true, 
Dat's  de  gal's  whut  ma'ies  you? 
Come  back,  Sam;  now  whah's  you  gwine? 
Co'se  you  knows  dat  possum's  mine! 


DISCOVERED 

Seen  you  down  at  chu'ch  las'  night, 

Nevah  mm',  Miss  Lucy. 
What  I  mean?  Oh,  dat's  all  right, 

Nevah  rnin',  Miss  Lucy. 
You  was  sma't  cz  sma't  could  be, 
But  you  couldn't  hide  t'om  me. 
Ain't  I  got  two  eyes  to  see1 

Nevah  min',  Miss  Lucy. 

Guess  you  thought  you's  awful  keen; 

Nevah  mm',  Miss  Lucy. 
Evahthing  you  done,  I  seen; 

Nevah  mm',  Miss  Lucy. 
Seen  him  tck  yo'  ahm  jes'  so, 
When  he  got  outside  dc  do' — 
Oh,  I  know  dat  man's  yo'  beau! 

Nevah  mm',  Miss  Lucy. 

Say  now,  honey,  wa'd  he  say? — 

Nevah  min',  Miss  Lucy. 
Keep  yo'  secrets — dat's  yo'  way — 

Nevah  mm',  Miss  Lucy. 
Won't  tell  me,  an'  I'm  yo'  pal! 
I'm  gwine  tell  his  othah  gal, — 
Know  huh,  too;  huh  name  is  Sal. 

Nevah  min',  Miss  Lucy. 


Guy  Wetmore  Carryl 

GUY  WETMORE  CARRYL,  son  of  Charles  Edward  Carryl,  author  of  Davy  and  the 
Goblin  and  The  Admiral's  Caravan,  was  born  in  New  York  City,  March  4, 
1873.  He, was  graduated  from  Columbia  University  in  1895,  was  editor  of  Munsey's 
Magazine,  1895-6,  and,  during  the  time  he  lived  abroad  (from  1897  to  1902),  was  the 
foreign  representative  of  various  American  publications. 


I76  GUY   WETMORE  CARRYL 

As  a  writer  of  prose  he  was  received  with  no  little  acclaim;  his  stories,  The  Ttans- 
gression  of  Andrew  Vane  (1902)  and  Zut  and  Othet  Parisians  (1903),  held  the 
attention  of  a  restless  reading  public.  But  it  was  as  a  writer  of  light  verse  that 
Carryl  became  preeminent.  Inheriting  a  remarkable  technical  gift  from  his  father, 
young  Carryl  soon  surpassed  him  as  well  as  other  rivals  in  the  field  of  brilliantly 
rhymed,  adroitly  turned  burlesques. 

Although  he  wrote  several  serious  poems  which  were  collected  in  the  post- 
humously published  The  Garden  of  Years  (1904),  Carryl's  most  characteristic  work 
is  to  be  found  in  his  perversions  of  the  parables  of  Aesop,  Fables  fot  the  Fnvolous 
(1898);  the  topsy-turvy  interpretations  of  nursery  rhymes,  Mother  Goose  fot  Grown- 
ups (1900);  and  the  fantastic  variations  on  fairy  tales  in  Gnmm  Tales  Made  Gay 
(1903) — all  of  them  with  a  surprising  (and  punning)  Moral  attached.  Even  those 
who  scorn  the  gymnastics  of  most  light  verse  usually  succumb  to  the  ease  with  which 
Carryl  overcomes  seemingly  impossible  hazards  in  the  rhyme-leaping  fable  of  the 
fox  and  the  raven  or  the  appalling  pun-juggling  in  the  new  version  of  Puss-m-Boots. 
He  lacked  only  a  Sullivan — and  a  sense  of  satire — to  be  called  the  Gilbert  of  America. 

This  extraordinary  versifier  died,  before  reaching  the  height  of  his  power,  at  the 
age  of  thirty-one,  in  the  summer  of  1904. 


HOW  JACK  FOUND  THAT  BEANS  MAY  GO  BACK  ON  A  CHAP 

Without  the  slightest  basis 
For  hypochondnasis 

A  widow  had  forebodings  which  a  cloud  around  her  flung, 
And  with  expression  cynical 
For  half  the  day  a  clinical 

Thermometer  she  held  beneath  her  tongue. 

Whene'er  she  read  the  papers 
She  suffered  from  the  vapors, 

At  every  tale  of  malady  or  accident  she'd  groan; 
In  every  new  and  smart  disease, 
From  housemaid's  knee  to  heart  disease, 

She  recognized  the  symptoms  as  her  own! 

She  had  a  yearning  chronic 
To  try  each  novel  tonic, 

Elixir,  panacea,  lotion,  opiate,  and  balm; 
And  from  a  homeopathist 
Would  change  to  an  hydropathist, 

And  back  again,  with  stupefying  calm! 

She  was  nervous,  cataleptic, 
And  anemic,  and  dyspeptic: 

Though  not  convinced  of  apoplexy,  yet  she  had  her  fears. 
She  dwelt  with  force  fanatical 
Upon  a  twinge  rheumatical, 

And  said  she  had  a  buzzing  in  her  earsl 


GUY   WETMORE  CARRYL 

Now  all  of  this  bemoaning 

And  this  grumbling  and  this  groaning 

The  mind  of  Jack,  her  son  and  heir,  unconscionably  bored. 
His  heart  completely  hardening, 
He  gave  his  time  to  gardening, 

For  raising  beans  was  something  he  adored. 

Each  hour  in  accents  morbid 
This  limp  maternal  bore  bid 

Her  callous  son  affectionate  and  lachrymose  good-bys. 
She  never  granted  Jack  a  day 
Without  some  long  "Alackaday'" 

Accompanied  by  rolling  of  the  eyes. 

But  Jack,  no  panic  showing, 

Just  watched  his  beanstalk  growing, 

And  twined  with  tender  fingers  the  tendrils  up  the  pole. 
At  all  her  words  funereal 
He  smiled  a  smile  ethereal, 

Or  sighed  an  absent-minded  "Bless  my  soul!" 

That  hollow-hearted  creature 
Would  never  change  a  feature: 

No  tear  beclimmed  his  eye,  however  touching  was  her  talk. 
She  never  fussed  or  flurried  him, 
The  only  thing  that  worried  him 

Was  when  no  bean-pods  grew  upon  the  stalk! 

But  then  he  wabbled  loosely 
His  head,  and  wept  profusely, 

And,  taking  out  his  handkerchief  to  mop  away  hi$  tears, 
Exclaimed:  "It  hasn't  got  any!" 
He  found  this  blow  to  botany 

Was  sadder  than  were  all  his  mother's  fears. 

The  Mojal  is  that  gardeners  pine 
Whene'er  no  pods  adorn  the  vine. 
Of  all  sad  words  experience  gleans 
The  saddest  are:  "It  might  have  beans." 

(I  did  not  make  this  up  myself: 

'Twas  in  a  book  upon  my  shelf. 

It's  witty,  but  I  don't  deny 

It's  rather  Whittier  than  I') 


THE    SYCOPHANTIC    FOX    AND    THE    GULLIBLE    RAVEN 

A  raven  sat  upon  a  tree, 

And  not  a  word  he  spoke,  for 
His  beak  contained  a  piece  of  Brie, 
Or,  maybe,  it  was  Roquefort. 
We'll  make  it  any  kind  you  please — 
At  all  events  it  was  a  cheese. 


177 


ij8  GUY   WETMORE  CARRYL 

Beneath  the  tree's  umbrageous  limb 

A  hungry  fox  sat  smiling; 
He  saw  the  raven  watching  him, 
And  spoke  in  words  beguiling: 
"]' admit e,"  said  he,  "ton  beau  plumage" 
(The  which  was  simply  persiflage). 

Two  things  there  are,  no  doubt  you  know, 

To  which  a  fox  is  used: 
A  rooster  that  is  bound  to  crow, 
A  crow  that's  bound  to  roost; 
And  whichsoever  he  espies 
He  tells  the  most  unblushing  lies. 

"Sweet  foul,"  he  said,  "I  understand 

You're  more  than  merely  natty, 
I  hear  you  sing  to  beat  the  band 
And  Adelma  Patti. 

Pray  render  with  your  liquid  tongue 
A  bit  from  'Gotterdammerung.'  " 

This  subtle  speech  was  aimed  to  please 

The  crow,  and  it  succeeded; 
He  thought  no  bird  in  all  the  trees 
Could  sing  as  well  as  he  did. 
In  flattery  completely  doused, 
He  gave  the  "Jewel  Song"  from  "Faust." 

But  gravitation's  law,  of  course, 

As  Isaac  Newton  showed  it, 
Exerted  on  the  cheese  its  force, 
And  elsewhere  soon  bestowed  it. 
In  fact,  there  is  no  need  to  tell 
What  happened  when  to  earth  it  fell. 

I  blush  to  add  that  when  the  bird 

Took  in  the  situation 
He  said  one  brief,  emphatic  word, 
Unfit  for  publication. 

The  fox  was  greatly  startled,  but 
He  only  sighed  and  answered  "Tut." 

The  Moral  is:  A  fox  is  bound 

To  be  a  shameless  sinner. 
And  also:  When  the  cheese  comes  round 
You  know  it's  after  dinner. 
But  (what  is  only  known  to  few) 
The  fox  is  after  dinner,  too. 


HOW  A  CAT  WAS  ANNOYED  AND  A  POET  WAS  BOOTED 

A  poet  had  a  cat. 

There  was  nothing  odd  in  that — 


GUY   WETMORE  CARRYL  179 

(I  might  make  a  little  pun  about  the  Mewsl) 
But  what  is  really  more 
Remarkable,  she  wore 

A  pair  ol  pointed  patent-leather  shoes. 
And  I  doubt  me  greatly  whether 
You  have  heard  the  like  of  that: 
Pointed  shoes  of  patent-leather 
On  a  cat! 

His  time  he  used  to  pass 
Writing  sonnets,  on  the  grass — 

(I  might  say  something  good  on  fen  and  swatd!) 
While  the  cat  sat  near  at  hand, 
Trying  hard  to  understand 
The  poems  he  occasionally  roared. 
(I  myself  possess  a  feline, 
But  when  poetry  I  roar 
He  is  sure  to  make  a  bee-line 
For  the  door.) 

The  poet,  cent  by  cent, 
All  his  patrimony  spent — 

(I  might  tell  how  he  went  from  verse  to  worse!) 
Till  the  cat  was  sure  she  could, 
By  advising,  do  him  good. 

So  addressed  him  in  a  manner  that  was  terse: 
"We  are  bound  toward  the  scuppers, 

And  the  time  has  come  to  act, 
Or  we'll  both  be  on  our  uppers 
For  a  fact!" 

On  her  boot  she  fixed  her  eye, 
But  the  boot  made  no  reply— 

(I  might  say:  "Couldn't  speak  to  save  its  sole!") 
And  the  foolish  bard,  instead 
Of  responding,  only  read 

A  verse  that  wasn't  bad  upon  the  whole. 
And  it  pleased  the  cat  so  greatly, 

Though  she  knew  not  what  it  meant, 
That  I'll  quote  approximately 
How  it  went: — • 

"If  I  should  live  to  be 

The  last  leaf  upon  the  tree" — 

(I  might  put  in:  "I  think  I'd  just  as  leaf  I") 
"Let  them  smile,  as  I  do  now, 
At  the  old  forsaken  bough" — 
Well,  he'd  plagiarized  it  bodily,  in  brief! 
But  that  cat  of  simple  breeding 

Couldn't  read  the  lines  between, 
So  she  took  it  to  a  leading 
Magazine. 


i8o  GUY   WETMORE  CARRY? 

She  was  jarred  and  very  sore 
When  they  showed  her  to  the  door. 

(I  might  hit  off  the  door  that  was  a  jar!) 
To  the  spot  she  swift  returned 
Where  the  poet  sighed  and  yearned, 

And  she  told  him  that  he'd  gone  a  little  far, 
"Your  performance  with  this  rhyme  has 

Made  me  absolutely  sick," 
She  remarked.  "I  think  the  time  has 
Come  to  kick!" 

I  could  fill  up  half  the  page 
With  descriptions  of  her  rage — 

(I  might  say  that  she  went  a  bit  too  jut!) 
When  he  smiled  and  murmured:  "Shoo'" 
"There  is  one  thing  I  can  do'" 

She  answered  with  a  wrathful  kind  of  purr. 
"You  may  shoe  me,  an  it  suit  you, 

But  I  feel  my  conscience  bid 
Me,  as  tit  for  tat,  to  boot  you!" 
(Which  she  did.) 

The  Moial  of  the  plot 

(Though  I  say  it,  as  should  not!) 

Is:  An  editor  is  difficult  to  suit. 
But  again  there're  other  times 
When  the  man  who  fashions  rhymes 

Is  a  rascal,  and  a  bully  one  to  bootl 


Trumbull  Sticfyiey 


(Joseph)  Trumbull  Stickney  was  born  June  20,  1874,  at  Geneva,  Switzerland,  of 
New  England  parents.  In  1891  he  entered  Harvard  and  was  graduated  with  high 
classical  honors  in  1895.  Immediately  thereafter,  he  went  abroad,  studying  at  the 
Sorbonne  and  College  de  France  for  seven  years.  The  University  of  Pans  gave  him 
the  Doctoral  es  Lettres,  never  before  conferred  on  an  American,  for  two  scholarly 
theses  in  1903,  the  critic  Masqueray  pronouncing  his  "Les  Sentences  dans  la  Poeste 
Gtecque"  one  of  the  best  modern  studies  of  Hellenic  literature.  A  few  months  later 
he  returned  to  America,  where  he  became  instructor  of  Greek  at  Harvard  University. 
Here  his  work  was  suddenly  interrupted  by  death,  caused  by  a  tumor  on  the  brain, 
and  he  died  at  the  age  of  thirty,  October  u,  1904. 

One  year  after  his  death,  his  friends,  George  Cabot  Lodge,  John  Ellerton  Lodge 
and  William  Vaughn  Moody,  edited  his  posthumous  Poems  (1905),  a  small  and 
wholly  forgotten  volume,  Diamatic  Verses,  having  appeared  in  1902.  Stickney  seems 
to  have  found  no  wider  circle  of  readers  than  his  restricted  intimate  one.  The  collec- 
tions of  the  period  have  no  record  ot  him;  Stedman's  voluminous  anthology  does  not 
even  mention  his  name.  Yet  there  can  be  no  question  but  that  Stickney  was  a  repre- 


TRUMBULL  STICKNEY 


181 


sentative  poet  of  his  generation,  worthy  to  stand  beside  Moody,  whose  point  of 
view  as  well  as  his  rhetoric  he  shared.  There  is  a  note,  however,  in  Stickney's  poetry 
wholly  unlike  Moody 's,  a  preoccupation  with  death  that  relates  him — in  spirit  at 
least — to  the  later  Jeffers.  He  spoke  of  divinely  learning  to  suflcr  loneliness;  his,  he 
wrote,  were  the  "wise  denials." 

LIVE  BLINDLY  AND  UPON  THE  HOUR 

Live  blindly  and  upon  the  hour.  The  Lord, 
Who  was  the  Future,  died  full  long  ago. 
Knowledge  which  is  the  Past  is  folly.  Go, 
Poor  child,  and  be  not  to  thyself  abhorred. 
Around  thine  earth  sun-winged  winds  do  blow 
And  planets  roll;  a  meteor  draws  his  sword; 
The  rainbow  breaks  his  seven-colored  chord 
And  the  long  strips  of  river-silver  flow: 
Awake'  Give  thyself  to  the  lovely  hours. 
Drinking  their  lips,  catch  thou  the  dream  in  flight 
About  their  fragile  hairs'  aerial  gold. 
Thou  art  divine,  thou  livest, — as  of  old 
Apollo  springing  naked  to  the  light, 
And  all  his  island  shivered  into  flowers. 


IN    THE    PAST 

There  lies  a  somnolent  lake 
Under  a  noiseless  sky, 
Where  never  the  mornings  break 
Nor  the  evenings  die. 

Mad  flakes  of  color 
Whirl  on  its  even  face 
Iridescent  and  streaked  with  pallor; 
And,  warding  the  silent  place, 

The  rocks  rise  sheer  and  gray 
From  the  sedgclcss  brink  to  the  sky 
Dull-lit  with  the  light  of  pale  half-day 
Thro'  a  void  space  and  dry. 

And  the  hours  lag  dead  in  the  air 
With  a  sense  of  coming  eternity 
To  the  heart  of  the  lonely  boatman  there: 
That  boatman  am  I, 

I,  in  my  lonely  boat, 
A  waif  on  the  somnolent  lake, 
Watching  the  colors  creep  and  float 
With  the  sinuous  track  of  a  snake. 

Now  I  lean  o'er  the  side 

And  lazy  shades  in  the  water  see, 


Lapped  in  the  sweep  of  a  sluggish  tide 
Crawled  in  from  the  living  sea; 

And  next  I  fix  mine  eyes, 

So  long  that  the  heart  declines, 

On  the  changeless  face  of  the  open  skies 

Where  no  star  shines; 

And  now  to  the  rocks  I  turn, 
To  the  rocks,  around 
That  he  like  walls  of  a  circling  urn 
Wherein  lie  bound 

The  waters  that  feel  my  powerless  strength 
And  meet  my  homeless  oar 
Laboring  over  their  ashen  length 
Never  to  find  a  shore. 

But  the  gleam  still  skims 
At  times  on  the  somnolent  lake, 
And  a  light  there  is  that  swims 
With  the  whirl  of  a  snake; 

And  tho'  dead  be  the  hours  in  tne  air, 
And  dayless  the  sky, 
The  heart  is  alive  of  the  boatman  there: 
That  boatman  am  I. 


TRUMBULL  ST1CKNEY 


AGE    IN    YOUTH 

From  far  she's  come,  and  very  old, 
And  very  soiled  with  wandering. 
The  dust  of  seasons  she  has  brought 
Unbidden  to  this  field  of  Spring. 

She's  halted  at  the  log-barred  gate. 
The  May-day  waits,  a  tangled  spill 
Of  light  that  weaves  and  moves  along 
The  daisied  margin  of  the  hill, 

Where  Nature  bares  her  bridal  heart, 
And  on  her  snowy  soul  the  sun 
Languors  desirously  and  dull, 
An  amorous  pale  vermilion. 

She's  halted,  propped  her  rigid  arms, 
With  dead  big  eyes  she  drinks  the  west; 
The  brown  rags  hang  like  clotted  dust 
About  her,  save  her  withered  breast. 

A  very  soilure  of  a  dream 
Runs  in  the  furrows  of  her  brow, 
And  with  a  crazy  voice  she  croons 
An  ugly  catch  of  long  ago. 

But  look'  Along  the  molten  sky 
There  runs  strange  havoc  of  the  sun. 
"What  a  strange  sight  this  is,"  she  says, 
"I'll  cross  the  field,  I'll  follow  on." 

The  bars  are  falling  from  the  gate. 
The  meshes  of  the  meadow  yield; 
And  trudging  sunsetward  she  draws 
A  journey  thro'  the  daisy  field. 

The  daisies  shudder  at  her  hem. 
Her  dry  face  laughs  with  flowery  light; 
An  aureole  lifts  her  soiled  gray  hair: 
"I'll  on,"  she  says,  "to  see  this  sight." 


In  the  rude  math  her  torn  shoe  mows 
Juices  of  trod  grass  and  crushed  stalk 
Mix  with  a  soiled  and  earthy  dew, 
With  smear  of  petals  gray  as  chalk. 

The  Spring  grows  sour  along  her  track; 
The  winy  airs  of  amethyst 
Turn  acid.  "Just  beyond  the  ledge," 
She  says,  "I'll  see  the  sun  at  rest."* 

And  to  the  tremor  of  her  croon, 
Her  old,  old  catch  of  long  ago, 
The  newest  daisies  of  the  grass 
She  shreds  and  passes  on  below.  .  .  . 

The  sun  is  gone  where  nothing  is 
And  the  black-bladed  shadows  war. 
She  came  and  passed,  she  passed  along 
That  wet,  black  curve  of  scimitar. 

In  vain  the  flower-lifting  morn 

With  golden  fingers  to  uprear; 

The  weak  Spring  here  shall  pause  awhile: 

This  is  a  scar  upon  the  year. 

ALONE    ON    LYKAION 

Alone  on  Lykaion  since  man  hath  been 
Stand  on  the  height  two  columns,  where  at 

rest 

Two  eagles  hewn  of  gold  sit  looking  East 
Forever;  and  the  sun  goc$  up  between. 
Far  down  around  the  mountain's  oval  green 
An  order  keeps  the  falling  stones  abreast. 
Below  within  the  chaos  last  and  least 
A  river  like  a  curl  of  light  is  seen. 
Beyond  the  river  lies  the  even  sea, 
Beyond  the  sea  another  ghost  of  sky, — 
O  God,  support  the  sickness  of  my  eye 
Lest  the  far  space  and  long  antiquity 
Suck  out  my  heart,  and  on  this  awful  ground 
The   great  wind  kill  my  little  shell  with 

sound. 


Anna  Hempstead  Branch 

ATNA  HEMPSTEAD  BRANCH  was  born  at  New  London,  Connecticut.  She  was  grad- 
uated from  Smith  College  in  1897  and  has  devoted  herself  to  literature  and 
social  service,  mostly  in  New  York.  She  died  in  her  home  September  8,  1937. 
Her  two  chief  volumes.  The  Shoes  That  Danced  (1905)  and  Rose  of  the  Wind 


ANNA  HEMPSTEAD  BRANCH 


183 


(1910),  reveal  the  lyrist,  but  they  show  a  singer  who  is  less  fanciful  than  philosophic. 
Often,  indeed,  Miss  Branch  weighs  down  her  simple  melodies  with  intellectuality; 
more  often,  she  attains  a  high  level  of  lyricism.  Her  lines  are  admirably  condensed; 
rich  in  personal  as  well  as  poetic  value,  they  maintain  a  high  and  austere  level.  A 
typical  poem  is  "The  Monk  in  the  Kitchen,"  which,  with  its  spiritual  loveliness 
and  verbal  felicity,  is  a  celebration  of  cleanness  that  gives  order  an  almost  mystical 
nobility  and  recalls  George  Herbert. 

Although  nothing  she  has  ever  written  has  attained  the  popularity  of  her  shorter 
works,  "Nimrod"  has  an  epic  sweep,  a  large  movement  which,  within  the  greater 
curve,  contains  moments  of  exalted  imagery.  The  deeply  religious  feeling  implicit 
governs  the  author  as  person  no  less  than  as  poet,  for  Miss  Branch  had  given  a  great 
part  of  her  life  to  settlement  work  at  Chnstadora  House  on  New  York's  East  Side. 
"To  a  Dog"  is  more  direct  than  is  Miss  Branch's  wont;  "The  Monk  in  the  Kitchen" 
is  no  less  straightforward,  though  its  metaphysics  make  it  seem  less  forthright. 


THE    MONK    IN    THE    KITCHEN 

I 

Order  is  a  lovely  thing; 

On  disarray  it  lays  its  wing, 

Teaching  simplicity  to  sing. 

It  has  a  meek  and  lowly  grace, 

Quiet  as  a  nun's  face. 

Lo — I  will  have  thec  in  this  place  1 

Tranquil  well  of  deep  delight, 

All  things  that  shine  through  thee  appear 

As  stones  through  water,  sweetly  clear. 

Thou  clarity, 

That  with  angelic  charity 

Revealest  beauty  where  thou  art, 

Spread  thyself  like  a  clean  pool. 

Then  all  the  things  that  in  thee  are, 

Shall  seem  more  spiritual  and  fair, 

Reflection  from  scrcner  air — 

Sunken  shapes  of  many  a  star 

In  the  high  heavens  set  afar. 

ii 

Ye  stolid,  homely,  visible  things, 
Above  you  all  brood  glorious  wings 
Of  your  deep  entities,  set  high, 
Like  slow  moons  in  a  hidden  sky. 
But  you,  their  likenesses,  are  spent 
Upon  another  element. 
Truly  ye  are  but  seemings — 
The  shadowy  cast-off  gleamings 
Of  bright  solidities.  Ye  seem 
Soft  as  water,  vague  as  dream; 
Image,  cast  in  a  shifting  stream. 


in 

What  are  ye? 

I  know  not. 

Brazen  pan  and  iron  pot, 

Yellow  brick  and  gray  flagstone 

Thar  my  feet  have  trod  upon — 

Ye  seem  to  me 

Vessels  of  bright  mystery 

For  yc  do  bear  a  shape,  and  so 

Though  ye  were  made  by  man,  I  know 

An  inner  Spirit  also  made, 

And  ye  his  breathings  have  obeyed. 

IV 

Shape,  the  strong  and  awful  Spirit, 

Laid  his  ancient  hand  on  you. 

He  waste  chaos  doth  inherit; 

He  can  alter  and  subdue. 

Verily,  he  doth  lift  up 

Matter,  like  a  sacred  cup. 

Into  deep  substance  he  reached,  and  lo 

Where  ye  were  not,  ye  were;  and  so 

Out  of  useless  nothing,  ye 

Groaned  and  laughed  and  came  to  be, 

And  I  use  you,  as  I  can, 

Wonderful  uses,  made  for  man, 

Iron  pot  and  brazen  pan. 

v 

What  are  ye? 

I  know  not; 

Nor  what  I  really  do 

When  I  move  and  govern  you. 

There  is  no  small  work  unto  God. 

He  required  of  us  greatness; 

Of  his  least  creature 


184 

A  high  angelic  nature, 

Stature  superb  and  bright  completeness. 

He  sets  to  us  no  humble  duty. 

Each  act  that  he  would  have  us  do 

Is  haloed  round  with  strangest  beauty; 

Terrific  deeds  and  cosmic  tasks 

Of  his  plainest  child  he  asks. 

When  I  polish  the  brazen  pan 

I  hear  a  creature  laugh  afar 

In  the  gardens  of  a  star, 

And  from  his  burning  presence  run 

Flaming  wheels  of  many  a  sun. 

Whoever  makes  a  thing  more  bright, 

He  is  an  angel  of  all  light. 

When  I  cleanse  this  earthen  floor 

My  spirit  leaps  to  see 

Bright  garments  trailing  over  it, 

A  cleanness  made  by  me. 

Purger  of  all  men's  thoughts  and  ways, 

With  labor  do  I  sound  Thy  praise, 

My  work  is  done  for  Thee. 

Whoever  makes  a  thing  more  bright, 

He  is  an  angel  of  all  light. 

Therefore  let  me  spread  abroad 

The  beautiful  cleanness  of  my  God. 


ANNA  HEMPSTEAD  BRANCH 

VT 

One  time  in  the  cool  of  dawn 

Angels  came  and  worked  with  me. 

The  air  was  soft  with  many  a  wing. 

They  laughed  amid  my  solitude 

And  cast  bright  looks  on  everything. 

Sweetly  of  me  did  they  ask 

That  they  might  do  my  common  task, 

And  all  were  beautiful — but  one 

With  garments  whiter  than  the  sun 

Had  such  a  face 

Of  deep,  remembered  grace; 

That  when  I  saw  I  cried — "Thou  art 

The  great  Blood-Brother  of  my  heart. 

Where  have  I  seen  thce?" — And  he  said, 

"When  we  were  dancing  round  God's  throne. 

How  often  thou  art  there. 

Beauties  from  thy  hands  have  flown 

Like  white  doves  wheeling  in  mid-air. 

Nay — thy  soul  icmcmbers  not? 

Work  on,  and  cleanse  thy  iron  pot." 

VII 

What  are  we ?  I  know  not. 


WHILE    LOVELINESS    GOES    BY 

Sometimes  when  all  the  world  seems  gray  and  dun 

And  nothing  beautiful,  a  voice  will  cry, 

"Look  out,  look  out'  Angels  are  drawing  nigh'" 

Then  my  slow  burdens  leave  me  one  by  one, 

And  swiftly  does  my  heart  arise  and  run 

Even  like  a  child  while  loveliness  goes  by — 

And  common  folk  seem  children  of  the  sky, 

And  common  things  seem  shaped  of  the  sun, 

Oh,  pitiful  1  that  I  who  love  them,  must 

So  soon  perceive  their  shining  garments  fade! 

And  slowly,  slowly,  from  my  eyes  of  trust 

Their  flaming  banners  sink  into  a  shade' 

While  this  earth's  sunshine  seems  the  golden  dust 

Slow  settling  from  that  radiant  cavalcade. 


TO    A    DOG 

I 


If  there  is  no  God  for  thee 
Then  there  is  no  God  for  me, 

If  He  sees  not  when  you  share 
With  the  poor  your  frugal  fare, 


Does  not  see  you  at  a  grave, 
Every  instinct  bred  to  save; 

As  if  you  were  the  only  one 
Believing  m  a  resurrection; 

When  you  wait,  as  lovers  do, 
Watching  till  your  friend  comes  true; 


ANNA  HEMPSTEAD  BRANCH 


185 


Does  not  reverence  when  you  take 
Angry  words  for  love's  sweet  sake; 

If  his  eye  does  not  approve 

All  your  faith  and  pain  and  love; 

If  the  heart  of  justice  fail 
And  is  for  you  of  no  avail; 

If  there  is  no  heaven  for  thee 
Then  there  is  no  heaven  for  me. 


If  the  Lord  they  tell  us  of 
Died  for  men  yet  loves  not  love, 

If  from  out  His  Paradise 

He  shuts  the  innocent  and  wise, 

The  gay,  ohedient,  simple,  good, 
The  docile  ones,  of  friendly  mood, 

Those  who  die  to  save  a  friend 
Heavenly  faithful  to  the  end; 

If  there  is  no  cross  for  thee 
Then  there  is  no  cross  for  me. 


HI 


If  its  boughs  reach  not  so  high 
That  they  bowed  star  and  sky, 

If  its  roots  are  not  so  sound 

That  they  cleave  the  heavy  ground, 

If  it  thrills  not  through  all  Nature 
Plunged  through  every  living  creature, 

If  its  leaves  do  not  enmesh 
Every  bit  of  groaning  flesh, 

If  it  strike  no  mighty  spur 

Through  fang  and  claw  and  tooth  and  fur 

Piercing  tree  and  earth  and  stone, 
Then  indeed  I  stand  alone. 

Nothing  less  than  this  can  save 
Me,  from  out  my  fleshly  grave, 

Me,  in  whom  such  jungles  are 
Where  the  beasts  go  out  to  war. 

If  there  is  no  God  for  thcc 
Then  there  is  no  God  for  me. 


Amy  Lowell 

Any  LOWELL  was  born  in  Brookline,  Massachusetts,  February  9,  1874,  °f  a 
line  of  noted  publicists  and  poets;  the  first  colonist  (a  Pcrcival  Lowell)  arrived 
in  Newburyport  in  1637.  fames  Russell  Lowell  was  a  cousin  of  her  grandfather; 
Abbott  Lawrence,  her  mother's  father,  was  minister  to  England;  Percival  Lowell,  the 
astronomer  who  charted  the  conjectural  canals  on  Mars,  was  a  brother;  and  Abbott 
Lawrence  Lowell,  her  other  brother,  was  president  of  Harvard  University. 

Miss  Lowell  obtained  her  early  education  through  private  tuition  and  travel  abroad. 
These  European  journeys  were  the  background  upon  which  much  of  Miss  Lowell's 
later  work  was  unconsciously  woven;  her  visits  to  France,  Egypt,  Turkey,  and  Greece 
bore  fruit,  many  years  later,  in  the  exotic  colors  of  her  verse.  As  a  young  girl,  she 
had  vague  aspirations  toward  being  a  writer;  but  it  was  not  until  1902,  when  she 
was  twenty-eight  years  old,  that  she  definitely  determined  to  be  a  poet.  For  eight 
years  she  served  a  rigorous  apprenticeship,  reading  the  classics  of  all  schools,  studying 
the  technique  of  verse,  but  never  attempting  to  publish  a  line.  In  1910  her  first  verse 
was  printed  in  The  Atlantic  Monthly;  two  years  later  her  first  book  appeared. 

This  volume,  A  Dome  of  Many-colored  Glass  (1912),  was  a  strangely  unpromising 
first  book.  Subject  and  treatment  were  conventional;  the  influence  of  Keats  and 


186  AMY  LOWELL 

Tennyson  was  evident;  the  tone  was  soft  and  sentimental,  without  a  trace  of  per- 
sonality. It  was  a  queer  prologue  to  the  vivid  Sword  Blades  and  Poppy  Seed  (1914), 
which  marked  not  only  an  extraordinary  advance  but  a  new  individuality.  This 
second  volume  contained  many  poems  written  in  the  usual  forms,  a  score  of  pictorial 
pieces  illustrating  Miss  Lowell's  identification  with  the  Jmagists,  and,  possibly  most 
important  from  a  technical  standpoint,  the  first  appearance  in  English  of  "poly- 
phonic prose."  Of  this  extremely  flexible  form,  Miss  Lowell,  in  an  essay  on  John 
Gould  Fletcher,  wrote,  "  'Polyphonic*  means  'many-voiced/  and  the  form  is  so-called 
because  it  makes  use  of  the  'voices'  of  poetry,  namely:  meter,  vers  libre,  assonance, 
alliteration,  rhyme  and  return.  It  employs  every  form  of  rhythm,  even  prose  rhythm 
at  times."  By  this  time  Miss  Lowell  had  "captured"  the  Imagist  movement  from 
Ezra  Pound,  had  reorganized  it,  and,  by  her  belligerent  championing  of  vers  hbre, 
freedom  of  choice  of  subject,  and  other  seeming  innovations,  had  made  poetry  a 
fighting  word. 

It  was  because  of  her  experiments  in  form  and  technique  that  Miss  Lowell  first 
attracted  attention  and  is  still  best  known.  But,  beneath  a  preoccupation  with  theories 
and  novelty  of  utterance,  there  was  the  skilled  story-teller,  who  revivified  history  with 
creative  excitement.  Men,  Women  and  Ghosts  (1916)  brims  with  this  contagious 
vitality;  it  is  richer  in  variety  than  its  predecessors,  swifter  in  movement.  It  is,  in 
common  with  all  of  Miss  Lowell's  work,  best  in  its  portrayal  of  colors  and  sounds, 
of  physical  perceptions  rather  than  the  reactions  of  inner  experience.  She  is,  pre- 
eminently, the  poet  of  the  external  world;  her  visual  effects  are  as  "hard  and  clear" 
as  the  most  uncompromising  Imagist  could  desire.  The  colors  with  which  her  works 
are  studded  seem  like  bits  of  bright  enamel;  every  leaf  and  flower  has  a  lacquered 
brilliance.  To  compensate  for  the  lack  of  the  spirit's  warmth,  Miss  Lowell  feverishly 
agitates  all  she  touches;  nothing  remains  quiescent.  Whether  she  writes  about  a 
fruit  shop,  or  a  flower-garden,  or  a  string  quartet,  or  a  Japanese  print — everything 
flashes,  leaps,  startles,  and  burns  with  dynamic,  almost  savage,  speed.  Motion  too 
often  takes  the  place  of  emotion. 

In  Can  Gtande's  Castle  (1918)  Miss  Lowell  achieves  a  broader  line;  the  teller  of 
stories,  the  bizarre  decorator,  and  the  experimenter  finally  fuse.  The  poems  in  this 
volume  are  only  four  in  number — four  polyphonic  prose-poems  of  unusual  length, 
extraordinarily  varied  in  their  sense  of  amplitude  and  time.  Pictures  of  the  Floating 
World  (1919)  which  followed  is,  in  many  ways,  Miss  Lowell's  most  personal  revela- 
tion. Although  there  are  pages  devoted  to  the  merely  dazzling  and  grotesque,  most 
of  the  poems  are  in  a  quieter  key. 

Legends  (1921)  is  closely  related  to  Can  Grande' s  Castle;  eleven  stories  are  placed 
against  seven  different  backgrounds.  The  first  poem  must  be  rated  among  Miss 
Lowell's  most  dazzling  achievements:  a  tour  de  force  with  colors  as  strange  and 
metallic  as  the  scene  it  pictures.  The  next  years  were  devoted  to  her  Keats  researches. 

Besides  Miss  Lowell's  original  poetry,  she  undertook  many  studies  in  foreign  litera- 
tures; she  made  the  English  versions  of  the  poems  translated  from  the  Chinese  by 
Florence  Ayscough  in  the  vivid  Fir-Flower  Tablets  (1921).  She  also  wrote  two 
volumes  of  critical  essays:  Six  French  Poets  (1915)  and  Tendencies  in  Modern  Amer- 
ican Poetry  (1917),  valuable  aids  to  the  student  of  contemporary  literature.  Two 
years  after  its  publication  she  acknowledged  the  authorship  of  the  anonymous  A 
Critical  Fable  (1922),  a  modern  sequel  to  James  Russell  Lowell's  A  Fable  for  Critics. 


AMY  LOWELL  187 

Her  monumental  John  Keats,  an  exhaustive  biography  and  analysis  of  the  poet  in 
two  volumes,  appeared  early  in  1925. 

For  years  Miss  Lowell  had  been  suffering  from  ill  health;  she  had  been  operated 
upon  several  times,  but  her  general  condition,  as  well  as  her  continual  desire  to  work, 
nullified  the  effects  of  the  operations.  In  April,  1925,  her  condition  became  worse; 
she  was  forced  to  cancel  a  projected  lecture  trip  through  England  and  to  cease  all 
work.  She  died  as  the  result  of  a  paralytic  stroke  on  May  12,  1925.  Her  death 
occasioned  nation-wide  tributes;  the  very  journals  which  had  ridiculed  her  during 
her  life  were  loud  in  praise:  it  was  agreed  that  hers  was  one  of  the  most  daring 
and  picturesque  figures  in  contemporary  literature.  Like  all  pioneers,  she  was  the 
target  of  scorn  and  hostility;  but,  unlike  most  innovators,  she  lived  to  sec  her  experi- 
ments rise  from  the  limbo  of  ridicule  to  a  definite  place  in  their  period. 

Three  posthumous  volumes  appeared  at  yearly  intervals  immediately  after  her 
death:  What's  O'ClocI^  (1925)  which  was  awarded  the  Pulitzer  Prize  for  that  year, 
East  Wind  (1926),  and  Ballads  for  Sale  (1927).  The  first  was  arranged  by  the  poet 
herself  and  includes  such  poems  as  "Meeting-House  Hill"  and  "Lilacs"  which  are 
tart  and  native;  the  second  is  a  set  of  dialect  and  highly  ovcrdramatized  New 
England  narratives;  the  third  is  a  miscellaneous  collection.  Her  qualities  are  epito- 
mized in  these  three  books  and  the  fact  that  they  show  no  particular  advance  upon 
the  earlier  "Patterns"  is  significant.  Her  brilliance,  her  command  of  the  lacquered 
phrase  and  the  glazed  figure,  her  pyrotechniquc  which  causes  words  to  bloom  and 
burst  at  the  same  moment  as  though  issuing  from  firework  flower-pots,  her  restless 
excitement  provoking  inanimate  objects  to  a  furious  life  of  their  own — these  were 
characteristics  recognizable  from  the  first.  In  some  of  the  new  poems,  the  juxta- 
position of  the  thing  observed  and  the  thing  imagined  ("Meeting-House  Hill"  is  a 
particularly  vivid  example)  is  more  than  ordinarily  surprising,  but  one  is  prepared 
for  the  verve  and  alacrity  of  upspnnging  colors,  for  the  purposeful  shifting  and  dis- 
tortion of  surfaces  like  the  clash  of  planes  in  an  agitated  canvas.  Perhaps  the  most 
important  of  the  posthumous  poems  are  the  expressive  and  personal  "Lilacs," 
"Evelyn  Ray,"  a  virtuoso  piece  in  couplets,  and  "The  Sisters,"  a  shrewd  commentary 
on  the  "queer  lot  of  women  who  write  poetry,"  particularly  her  "spiritual  relations" 
Sappho,  Mrs.  Browning,  and  Emily  Dickinson. 

At  the  end  of  "The  Sisters"  the  poet  confesses  that,  in  spite  of  her  admiration  for 
the  Greek  poet,  the  Englishwoman,  and  the  American  genius,  none  of  the  three 
has  any  word  for  her.  They  were,  first  of  all,  deeply  emotional  poets;  Miss  Lowell 
was  not  at  home  among  the  emotions.  She  triumphed  in  the  visual  world,  in  the 
reflection  of  reflections,  in  capturing  the  minute  disturbances  of  light  and  move- 
ment. It  has  been  said  that,  though  a  poet,  she  failed  as  a  humanist,  that  she  never 
touched  deep  feelings  because  she  never  knew  where  to  look  for  them.  This — con- 
tradicted by  such  poems  as  "Patterns,"  "Madonna  of  the  Evening  Flowers"  and  the 
ecstatic  "In  Excelsis" — is  true  in  the  sense  that  passion  was  not  this  poet's  domain 
nor,  except  in  a  few  instances,  her  concern.  Color  and  finesse  were  her  preoccupa- 
tions, and  her  many  volumes  testify  to  a  continually  adroit  craftsmanship. 

Amy  Lowell,  storm-center,  Imagist,  strategist,  poet,  and  personality,  is  shown  in 
her  vigorous  many-sidedness  in  the  comprehensive,  if  uncritical,  biography  Amy 
Lowell  (1935)  by  S.  Foster  Damon. 


i88  A M^  LOWELL 

A    LADY 

You  are  beautiful  and  faded, 

Like  an  old  opera  tune 

Played  upon  a  harpsichord; 

Or  like  the  sun-flooded  silks 

Of  an  eighteenth-century  boudoir. 

In  your  eyes 

Smolder  the  fallen  roses  of  outlived  minutes, 

And  the  perfume  of  your  soul 

Is  vague  and  suffusing, 

With  the  pungence  of  sealed  sp?ce-jars. 

Your  half-tones  delight  me, 

And  I  grow  mad  with  gazing 

At  your  blent  colors. 

My  vigor  is  a  new  minted  penny, 
Which  I  cast  at  your  feet. 
Gather  it  up  from  the  dust 
That  its  sparkle  may  amuse  you. 


SOLITAIRE 

When  night  drifts  along  the  streets  of  the  city, 

And  sifts  down  between  the  uneven  roofs, 

My  mind  begins  to  peek  and  peer. 

It  plays  at  ball  in  odd,  blue  Chinese  gardens, 

And  shakes  wrought  dice-cups  in  Pagan  temples 

Amid  the  broken  flutings  of  white  pillars. 

It  dances  with  purple  and  yellow  crocuses  in  its  hair, 

And  its  feet  shine  as  they  flutter  over  drenched  grasses. 

How  light  and  laughing  my  mind  is, 

When  all  good  folk  have  put  out  their  bedroom  candles, 

And  the  city  is  still. 


PATTERNS 

I  walk  down  the  garden-paths, 

And  all  the  daffodils 

Are  blowing,  and  the  bright  blue  squills. 

I  walk  down  the  patterned  garden-paths 

In  my  stiff,  brocaded  gown. 

With  my  powdered  hair  and  jeweled  fan, 

I  too  am  a  rare 

Pattern.  As  I  wander  down 

The   garden-paths. 

My  dress  is  richly  figured, 
And  the  train 

Makes  a  pink  and  silver  stain 
On  the  gravel,  and  the  thrift 


AMY  LOWELL  18 

Of  the  borders. 

Just  a  plate  of  current  fashion, 

Tripping  by  in  high-heeled,  ribboned  shoes. 

Not  a  softness  anywhere  about  me, 

Only  whalebone  and  brocade. 

And  I  sink  on  a  seat  in  the  shade 

Of  a  lime  tree.  For  my  passion 

Wars  against  the  stiff  brocade. 

The  daffodils  and  squills 

Flutter  in  the  breeze 

As  they  please. 

And  I  weep; 

For  the  lime-tree  is  in  blossom 

And -one  small  flower  has  dropped  upon  my  bosom. 

And  the  plashing  of  watcrdrops 

In  the  marble  fountain 

Comes  down  the  garden-paths. 

The  dripping  never  stops. 

Underneath  my  stiffened  gown 

Is  the  softness  of  a  woman  bathing  in  a  marble  basin, 

A  basin  in  the  midst  of  hedges  grown 

So  thick,  she  cannot  see  her  lover  hiding, 

But  she  guesses  he  is  near, 

And  the  sliding  of  the  water 

Seems  the  stroking  of  a  dear 

Hand  upon  her. 

What  is  Summer  in  a  fine  brocaded  gown! 

I  should  like  to  sec  it  lying  in  a  heap  upon  the  ground. 

All  the  pink  and  silver  crumpled  up  on  the  giound. 

I  would  be  the  pink  and  silver  as  I  ran  along  the  paths, 

And  he  would  stumble  after, 

Bewildered  by  my  laughter. 

I  should  see  the  sun  flashing  from  his  sword-hilt  and  the  buckles  on  his  shoes, 

I  would  choose 

To  lead  him  in  a  maze  along  the  patterned  paths, 

A  bright  and  laughing  maze  for  my  heavy-booted  lover. 

Till  he  caught  me  in  the  shade, 

And  the  buttons  of  his  waistcoat  bruised  my  body  as  he  clasped  me, 

Aching,  melting,  unafraid. 

With  the  shadows  of  the  leaves  and  the  sundrops, 

And  the  plopping  of  the  waterdrops, 

All  about  us  in  the  open  afternoon — 

I  am  very  like  to  swoon 

With  the  weight  of  this  brocade. 

For  the  sun  sifts  through  the  shade. 

Underneath  the  fallen  blossom 

In  my  bosom 

Is  a  letter  I  have  hul. 

It  was  brought  to  me  this  morning  by  a  rider  from  the  Duke. 


AMY  LOWEL1 


"Madam,  we  regret  to  inform  you  that  Lord  Hartwell 

Died  in  action  Thursday  se'nnight." 

As  I  read  it  in  the  white,  morning  sunlight, 

The  letters  squirmed  like  snakes. 

"Any  answer,  Madam,"  said  my  footman. 

"No,"  I  told  him. 

"See  that  the  messenger  takes  some  refreshment. 

No,  no  answer." 

And  I  walked  into  the  garden, 

Up  and  down  the  patterned  paths, 

In  my  stiff,  correct  brocade. 

The  blue  and  yellow  flowers  stood  up  proudly  in  the  sun, 

Each  one. 

I  stood  upright  too, 

Held  rigid  to  the  pattern 

By  the  stiffness  of  my  gown; 

Up  and  down  I  walked, 

Up  and  down. 

In  a  month  he  would  have  been  my  husband. 

In  a  month,  here,  underneath  this  lime, 

We  would  have  broke  the  pattern; 

He  for  me,  and  I  for  him, 

He  as  Colonel,  I  as  Lady, 

On  this  shady  scat. 

He  had  a  whim 

That  sunlight  carried  blessing. 

And  I  answered,  "It  shall  be  as  you  have  said." 

Now  he  is  dead. 

In  Summer  and  in  Winter  I  shall  walk 

Up  and  down 

The  patterned  garden-paths 

In  my  stiff,  brocaded  gown. 

The  squills  and  daffodils 

Will  give  place  to  pillared  roses,  and  to  asters,  and  to  snow. 

I  shall  go 

Up  and  down 

In  my  gown. 

Gorgeously  arrayed, 

Boned  and  stayed. 

And  the  softness  of  my  body  will  be  guarded  from  embrace 

By  each  button,  hook,  and  lace. 

For  the  man  who  should  loose  me  is  dead, 

Fighting  with  the  Duke  in  Flanderc,    - 

In  a  pattern  called  a  war. 

Christ!  What  are  patterns  for? 


AMY  LOWELL  igi 

WIND    AND    SILVER 

Greatly  shining, 

The  Autumn  moon  floats  in  the  thin  sky; 

And  the  fish-ponds  shake  their  backs  and  flash  their  dragon  scales 

As  she  passes  over  them. 

NIGHT    CLOUDS 

The  white  mares  of  the  moon  rush  along  the  sky 

Beating  their  golden  hoofs  upon  the  glass  Heavens; 

The  white  mares  of  the  moon  arc  all  standing  on  their  hind  legs 

Pawing  at  the  green  porcelain  doors  of  the  remote  Heavens. 

Fly,  mares' 

Strain  your  utmost, 

Scatter  the  milky  dust  of  stars, 

Or  the  tiger  sun  will  leap  upon  you  and  destroy  you 

With  one  lick  of  his  vermilion  tongue. 

FREE     FANTASIA     ON     JAPANESE     THEMES 

All  the  afternoon  there  has  been  a  chirping  of  birds, 

And  the  sun  lies  warm  and  still  on  the  western  sides  of  swollen  branches, 

There  is  no  wind; 

Even  the  little  twigs  at  the  ends  of  the  branches  do  not  move, 

And  the  needles  of  the  pines  are  solid 

Bands  of  marticulated  blackness 

Against  the  blue-white  sky, 

Still,  but  alert; 

And  my  heart  is  still  and  alert, 

Passive  with  sunshine, 

Avid  of  adventure. 

I  would  experience  new  emotions, 

Submit  to  strange  enchantments, 

Bend  to  influences 

Bizarre,  exotic, 

Fresh  with  burgeoning. 

I  would  climb  a  sacred  mountain 

Struggle  with  other  pilgrims  up  a  steep  path  through  pine-trees, 

Above  to  the  smooth,  treeless  slopes, 

And  prostrate  myself  before  a  painted  shrine, 

Beating  my  hands  upon  the  hot  earth, 

Quieting  my  eyes  upon  the  distant  sparkle 

Of  the  faint  spring  sea. 

I  would  recline  upon  a  balcony 

In  purple  curving  folds  of  silk, 

And  my  dress  should  be  silvered  with  a  pattern 

Of  butterflies  and  swallows, 

And  the  black  band  of  my  obi 

Should  flash  with  gold  circular  threads, 


4MY  LOWELL 


And  glitter  when  I  moved. 

I  would  lean  against  the  railing 

While  you  sang  to  me  of  wars 

Past  and  to  come — 

Sang,  and  played  the  samiscn. 

Perhaps  I  would  beat  a  little  hand  drum 

In  time  to  your  singing; 

Perhaps  I  would  only  watch  the  play  of  light 

Upon  the  hilt  of  your  two  swords. 

I  would  sit  in  a  covered  boat, 

Rocking  slowly  to  the  narrow  waves  of  a  river, 

While  above  us,  an  arc  of  moving  lanterns, 

Curved  a  bridge, 

A  hiss  of  gold 

Blooming  out  of  darkness, 

Rockets  exploded, 

And  died  in  a  soft  dripping  of  colored  stars. 

We  would  float  between  the  high  trestles, 

And  drift  away  from  other  boats, 

Until  the  rockets  flared  soundless, 

And  their  falling  stars  hung  silent  in  the  sky, 

Like  wistaria  clusters  above  the  ancient  entrance  of  a  temple. 

I  would  anything 

Rather  than  this  cold  paper; 

With  outside,  the  quiet  sun  on  the  sides  of  burgeoning  branches, 

And  inside,  only  my  books. 

A     DECADE 

When  you  came,  you  were  like  red  wine  and  honey, 

And  the  taste  of  you  burnt  my  mouth  with  its  sweetness. 

Now  you  are  like  morning  bread, 

Smooth  and  pleasant. 

I  hardly  taste  you  at  all,  for  I  know  your  savor; 

But  I  am  completely  nourished. 

MADONNA    OF    THE    EVENING    FLOWERS 

All  day  long  I  have  been  working, 

Now  I  am  tired. 

I  call:  "Where  are  you?" 

But  there  is  only  the  oak  tree  rustling  in  the  wind. 

The  house  is  very  quiet, 

The  sun  shines  in  on  your  books, 

On  your  scissors  and  thimble  just  put  down, 

But  you  are  not  there. 

Suddenly  I  am  lonely: 

Where  are  you? 

I  go  about  searching. 


AMY  LOWELL  i93 

Then  I  see  you, 

Standing  under  a  spire  of  pale  blue  larkspur, 

With  a  basket  of  roses  on  your  arm. 

You  arc  cool,  like  siher, 

And  you  smile. 

I  think  the  Canterbury  bells  arc  playing  little  tunes, 

You  tell  me  that  the  peonies  need  spraying, 

That  the  columbines  have  overrun  all  bounds, 

That  the  pyrus  japonica  should  be  cut  back  and  rounded. 

You  tell  me  these  things. 

But  I  look  at  you,  heart  of  silver, 

White  heart-flame  of  polished  silver, 

Burning  beneath  the  blue  steeples  of  the  larkspur, 

And  I  long  to  kneel  instantly  at  your  feet, 

While  all  about  us  peal  the  loud,  sweet  Te  Deums  of  the  Canterbury  bells. 


EVELYN    RAY 

No  decent  man  will  cross  a  field 
Laid  down  to  hay,  until  its  yield 

Is  cut  and  cocked,  yet  there  was  the  track 
Going  in  from  the  lane  and  none  coming  back. 

But  that  was  afterwards;  before, 

The  field  was  smooth  as  a  sea  oil  shore 

On  a  shimmering  afternoon,  waist-high 
With  bent,  and  red  top,  and  timothy. 

Lush  with  oat  grass  and  tall  fescue, 
And  the  purple  green  of  Kentucky  blue; 

A  noble  meadow,  so  broad  each  way 

It  took  three  good  scythes  to  mow  in  a  day. 

Just  where  the  field  broke  into  a  wood 
A  knotted  old  catalpa  stood, 

And  in  the  old  catalpa-tree 
A  cat-bird  sang  immoderately. 

The  sky  above  him  was  round  and  big 
And  its  center  seemed  just  over  his  twig. 

The  earth  below  him  was  fresh  and  fair,  , 
With  the  sun's  long  fingers  everywhere. 

The  cat-bird  perched  where  a  great  leaf  hung, 
And  the  great  leaf  tilted,  and  flickered,  and  swung. 


194  AMY  LOWELL 

The  cat-bird  sang  with  a  piercing  glee 
Up  in  the  sun-specked  catalpa-trec. 

He  sang  so  loud  and  he  sang  so  long 

That  his  cars  were  drowned  in  his  own  sweet  song. 

But  the  little  peering  leaves  of  grass 
Shook  and  sundered  to  let  them  pass, 

To  let  them  pass,  the  men  who  heard 
Nothing  the  grass  said,  nothing  the  bird. 

Each  man  was  still  as  a  shining  stone, 
Each  man's  head  was  a  buzzing  bone 

Wherein  two  words  screeched  in  and  out 
Like  a  grinding  saw  with  its  turn  about: 

"Evelyn  Ray,"  each  stone  man  said, 

And  the  words  cut  back  and  forth  through  his  head, 

And  each  of  them  wondered  if  he  were  dead. 

The  cat-bird  sang  with  his  head  cocked  up 
Gazing  into  the  sky's  blue  cup. 

The  grasses  waved  back  into  place, 
The  sun's  long  fingers  stroked  each  face, 

Each  grim,  cold  face  that  saw  no  sun. 
And  the  icet  led  the  faces  on  and  on. 

They  stopped  beside  the  catalpa-tree, 
Said  one  stone  face  to  the  other:  "See!" 

The  other  face  had  nothing  to  say, 
Its  lips  were  frozen  on  "Evelyn  Ray." 

They  laid  their  hats  in  the  tail  green  grass 

Where  the  crickets  and  grasshoppers  pass  and  pass. 

They  hung  their  coats  in  the  crotch  of  a  pine 
And  paced  five  feet  in  an  even  line. 

They  measured  five  paces  either  way, 

And  the  saws  in  their  heads  screeched  "Evelyn  Ray." 

The  cat-bird  sang  so  loud  and  clear 

He  heard  nothing  at  all,  there  was  nothing  to  hear. 

Even  the  swish  of  long  legs  pushing 

Through  grass  had  ceased,  there  was  only  the  hushing 


AMY  LOWELL  195 

Of  a  windless  wind  in  the  daisy  tops, 

And  the  jar  stalks  make  when  a  grasshopper  hops. 

Every  now  and  then  a  bee  boomed  over 
The  black-eyed  Susans  in  search  of  clover, 

And  crickets  shrilled  as  crickets  do: 
One — two.  One — two. 

The  cat-bird  sang  with  his  head  in  the  air, 

And  the  sun's  bright  fingers  poked  here  and  there, 

Past  leaf,  and  branch,  and  needle,  and  cone. 
But  the  stone  men  stood  like  men  of  stone. 

Each  man  lifted  a  dull  stone  hand 
And  his  fingers  telt  like  weaving  sand, 

And  his  feet  seemed  standing  on  a  ball 
Which  tossed  and  turned  in  a  waterfall. 

Each  man  heard  a  shot  somewhere 
Dropping  out  of  the  distant  air. 

But  the  screaming  saws  no  longer  said 
"Evelyn  Ray,"  for  the  men  were  dead. 


I  often  think  of  Evelyn  Ray. 
What  did  she  do,  what  did  she  say? 
Did  she  ever  chance  to  pass  that  way? 

I  remember  it  as  a  lovely  spot 

Where  a  cat-bird  sang.  When  he  heard  the  shot, 

Did  he  fly  away?  I  have  quite  forgot. 

When  I  went  there  last,  he  was  singing  again 
Through  a  little  fleeting,  misty  rain, 
And  pine-cones  lay  where  they  had  lain. 

This  is  the  tale  as  I  heard  it  when 

I  was  young  from  a  man  who  was  threescore  and  ten. 

A  lady  of  clay  and  two  stone  men. 

A  pretty  problem  is  here,  no  doubt, 

If  you  have  a  fancy  to  work  it  out: 

What  happens  to  stone  when  clay  is  about? 

Muse  upon  it  as  long  as  you  will, 

I  think  myself  it  will  baffle  your  skill, 

And  your  answer  will  be  what  mine  is — nil. 


796  AMY  LOWELL 

But  every  sunny  Summer's  day 

I  am  teased  with  the  thought  of  Evelyn  Ray, 

Poor  little  image  of  painted  clay. 

And  Heigh-ot  I  say. 

What  if  there  be  a  judgment-day? 

What  if  all  religions  be  true, 

And  Gabriel's  trumpet  blow  for  you 

And  blow  for  them — what  will  you  do? 

Evelyn  Ray,  will  you  rise  alone? 

Or  will  your  lovers  of  dull  gray  stone 

Pace  beside  you  through  the  wan 

Twilight  of  that  bitter  day 

To  be  judged  as  stone  and  judged  as  clay, 

And  no  one  to  say  the  judgment  nay? 

Better  be  nothing,  Evelyn  Ray, 
A  handful  of  buttercups  that  sway 
In  the  wind  for  a  children's  holiday. 

For  earth  to  earth  is  the  best  we  know, 
Where  the  good  blind  worms  push  to  and  fro 
Turning  us  into  the  seeds  which  grow, 

And  lovers  and  ladies  are  dead  indeed, 
Lost  in  the  sap  of  a  flower  seed. 
Is  this,  think  you,  a  sorry  creed? 

Well,  be  it  so,  for  the  world  is  wide 

And  opinions  jostle  on  every  side. 

What  has  always  been  hidden  will  always  hide. 

And  every  year  when  the  fields  are  high 
With  oat  grass,  and  red  top,  and  timothy, 
I  know  that  a  creed  is  the  shell  of  a  lie. 

Peace  be  with  you,  Evelyn  Ray, 
And  to  your  lovers,  if  so  it  may, 
For  earth  made  stone  and  earth  made  clay. 


THE    TAXI 

When  I  go  away  from  you 

The  world  beats  dead 

Like  a  slackened  drum. 

I  call  out  for  you  against  the  jutted  stars 

And  shout  into  the  ridges  of  the  wind. 

Streets  coming  fast, 

One  after  the  other, 


AMY  LOWELL 


197 


Wedge  you  away  from  me, 

And  the  lamps  of  the  city  prick  my  eyes 

So  that  I  can  no  longer  see  your  face. 

Why  should  I  leave  you, 

To  wound  myself  upon  the  sharp  edges  of  the  night? 


IN   EXCELS  is 

You — you 

Your  shadow  is  sunlight  on  a  plate  of  silver; 

Your  footsteps,  the  seedmg-place  of  lilies; 

Your  hands  moving,  a  chime  of  bells  across  a  windless  air. 

The  movement  of  your  hands  is  the  long,  golden  running  of  light  from  a  rising  sun; 
It  is  the  hopping  of  birds  upon  a  garden-path. 

As  the  perfume  of  jonquils,  you  come  forth  m  the  morning. 

Young  horses  are  not  more  sudden  than  your  thought, 

Your  words  are  bees  about  a  pear-tree, 

Your  fancies  are  the  gold-and-black  striped  wasps  buzzing  among  red  apples. 

I  drink  your  lips, 

I  cat  the  whiteness  of  your  hands  and  feet. 

My  mouth  is  open, 

As  a  new  jar  I  am  empty  and  open. 

Like  white  water  are  you  who  fill  the  cup  of  my  mouth, 

Like  a  brook  of  water  thronged  with  lilies. 

You  arc  frozen  as  the  clouds, 

You  are  far  and  sweet  as  the  high  clouds. 

I  dare  reach  to  you, 

I  dare  touch  the  rim  of  your  brightness. 

I  leap  beyond  the  winds, 

I  cry  and  shout, 

For  my  throat  is  keen  as  a  sword 

Sharpened  on  a  hone  of  ivory. 

My  throat  sings  the  joy  of  my  eyes, 

The  rushing  gladness  of  my  love. 

How  has  the  rainbow  fallen  upon  my  heart? 

How  have  I  snared  the  seas  to  he  in  my  fingers 

And  caught  the  sky  to  be  a  cover  for  my  head? 

How  have  you  come  to  dwell  with  me, 

Compassing  me  with  the  four  circles  of  your  mystic  lightness, 

So  that  I  say  "Glory'  Glory!"  and  bow  before  you 

As  to  a  shrine? 

Do  I  tease  myself  that  morning  is  morning  and  a  day  after? 

Do  I  think  the  air  a  condescension, 

The  earth  a  politeness, 

Heaven  a  boon  deserving  thanks? 

So  you — air — earth — heaven — 


AMY  LOWELL 


I  do  not  thank  you, 

I  take  you, 

I  live. 

And  those  things  which  I  say  in  consequence 

Are  rubies  mortised  in  a  gate  of  stone. 

MEETING-HOUSE    HILL 

I  must  be  mad,  or  very  tired, 

When  the  curve  of  a  blue  bay  beyond  a  railroad  track 

Is  shrill  and  sweet  to  me  like  the  sudden  springing  of  a  tune, 

And  the  sight  of  a  white  church  above  thin  trees  in  a  city  square 

Amazes  my  eyes  as  though  it  were  the  Parthenon. 

Clear,  reticent,  superbly  final, 

With  the  pillars  of  its  portico  refined  to  a  cautious  elegance, 

It  dominates  the  weak  trees, 

And  the  shot  of  its  spire 

Is  cool  and  candid, 

Rising  into  an  unresisting  sky. 

Strange  meeting-house 

Pausing  a  moment  upon  a  squalid  hill-top. 

I  watch  the  spire  sweeping  the  sky, 

I  am  dizzy  with  the  movement  of  the  sky; 

I  might  be  watching  a  mast 

With  its  royals  set  full 

Straining  before  a  two-reef  breeze. 

I  might  be  sighting  a  tea-clipper, 

Tacking  into  the  blue  bay, 

Just  back  from  Canton 

With  her  hold  full  of  green  and  blue  porcelain 

And  a  Chinese  coolie  leaning  over  the  rail 

Gazing  at  the  white  spire 

With  dull,  sea-spent  eyes. 


LILACS 

Lilacs, 

False  blue, 

White, 

Purple, 

Color  of  lilac, 

Your  great  puffs  of  flowers 

Are  everywhere  in  this  my  New  England. 

Among  your  heart-shaped  leaves 

Orange  orioles  hop  like  music-box  birds  and  sing 

Their  little  weak  soft  songs; 

In  the  crooks  of  your  branches 

The  bright  eyes  of  song  sparrows  sitting  on  spotted  eggs 

Peer  restlessly  through  the  light  and  shadow 

Of  all  Springs. 


AMY  LOWELL  799 

Lilacs  in  dooryards 

Holding  quiet  conversations  with  an  early  moon; 

Lilacs  watching  a  deserted  house 

Settling  sideways  into  the  grass  of  an  old  road; 

Lilacs,  wind-beaten,  staggering  under  a  lopsided  shock  of  bloom 

Above  a  cellar  dug  into  a  hill. 

You  are  everywhere. 

You  were  everywhere. 

You  tapped  the  window  when  the  preacher  preached  his  sermon, 

And  ran  along  the  road  beside  the  boy  going  to  school. 

You  stood  by  pasture-bars  to  give  the  cows  good  milking, 

You  persuaded  the  housewife  that  her  dish-pan  was  of  silver 

And  her  husband  an  image  of  pure  gold. 

You  flaunted  the  fragrance  of  your  blossoms 

Through  the  wide  doors  of  Custom  Houses — 

You,  and  sandalwood,  and  tea, 

Charging  the  noses  of  quill-driving  clerks 

When  a  ship  was  in  from  China. 

You  called  to  them:  "Goose-quill  men,  goose-quill  men, 

May  is  n  month  for  flitting," 

Until  they  writhed  on  their  high  stools 

And  wrote  poetry  on  their  letter-sheets  behind  the  propped-up  ledgers. 

Paradoxical  New  England  clerks, 

Writing  inventories  in  ledgers,  reading  the  "Song  of  Solomon"  at  night, 

So  many  verses  before  bedtime, 

Because  it  was  the  Bible. 

The  dead  fed  you 

Amid  the  slant  stones  of  graveyards. 

Pale  ghosts  who  planted  you 

Came  in  the  night  time 

And  let  their  thin  hair  blow  through  your  clustered  stems. 

You  are  of  the  green  sea, 

And  of  the  stone  hills  which  reach  a  long  distance. 

You  are  of  elm-shaded  streets  with  little  shops  where  they  sell  kites  and  marbles, 

You  are  of  great  parks  where  everyone  walks  and  nobody  is  at  home. 

You  cover  the  blind  sides  of  greenhouses 

And  lean  over  the  top  to  say  a  hurry-word  through  the  glass 

To  your  friends,  the  grapes,  inside. 

Lilacs, 

False  blue, 

White, 

Purple, 

Color  of  lilac, 

You  have  forgotten  your  Eastern  origin, 

The  veiled  women  with  eyes  like  panthrr? 

The  swollen,  aggressive  turbans  of  jeweled  Pashar 

Now  you  are  a  very  decent  flower, 

A  reticent  flower, 

A  curiously  clear-cut,  candid  flower, 

Standing  beside  clean  doorways, 


200  AMY  LOWEL 

Friendly  to  a  house-cat  and  a  pair  of  spectacles, 
Making  poetry  out  of  a  bit  of  moonlight 
And  a  hundred  or  two  sharp  blossoms. 

Maine  knows  you, 

Has  for  years  and  years; 

New  Hampshire  knows  you, 

And  Massachusetts 

And  Vermont. 

Cape  Cod  starts  you  along  the  beaches  to  Rhode  Island; 

Connecticut  takes  you  from  a  river  to  the  sea. 

You  are  brighter  than  apples, 

Sweeter  than  tulips, 

You  are  the  great  flood  of  our  souls 

Bursting  above  the  leaf-shapes  of  our  hearts, 

You  are  the  smell  of  all  Summers, 

The  love  of  wives  and  children, 

The  recollection  of  the  gardens  of  little  .children, 

You  arc  State  Houses  and  Charters 

And  the  familiar  treading  of  the  foot  to  and  fro  on  a  road  it  knows. 

May  is  lilac  here  in  New  England, 

May  is  a  thrush  singing  "Sun  up'"  on  a  tip-top  ash-tree, 

May  is  white  clouds  behind  pine-trees 

Puffed  out  and  marching  upon  a  blue  sky. 

May  is  a  green  as  no  other, 

May  is  much  sun  through  small  leaves, 

May  is  soft  earth, 

And  apple-blossoms, 

And  windows  open  to  a  South  wind. 

May  is  a  full  light  wind  of  lilac 

From  Canada  to  Narragansett  Bay. 

Lilacs, 

False  blue, 

White, 

Purple, 

Color  of  lilac, 

Heart-leaves  of  lilac  all  over  New  England, 

Roots  of  lilac  under  all  the  soil  of  New  England, 

Lilac  in  me  because  I  am  New  England, 

Because  my  roots  are  in  it, 

Because  my  leaves  are  of  it, 

Because  my  flowers  are  for  it, 

Because  it  is  my  country 

And  I  speak  to  it  of  itself 

And  sing  of  it  with  my  own  voiot 

Since  certainly  it  is  min  _ 


AMY  LOWELL 


THE    SISTERS 


Taking  us  by  and  large,  we're  a  queer  lot 

We  women  who  write  poetry.  And  when  you  think 

How  few  of  us  thcre've  been,  it's  queerer  still. 

I  wonder  what  it  is  that  makes  us  do  it, 

Singles  us  out  to  scribble  down,  man-wise, 

The  fragments  of  ourselves.  Why  are  we 

Already  mother-creatures,  double-bearing, 

With  matrices  in  body  and  in  brain  ? 

I  rather  think  that  there  is  just  the  reason 

We  are  so  sparse  a  kind  of  human  being; 

The  strength  of  forty  thousand  Atlases 

Is  needed  for  our  cvery-day  concerns. 

There's  Sapho,  now  I  wonder  what  was  Sapho. 

I  know  a  single  slender  thing  about  her: 

That,  loving,  she  was  like  a  burning  birch-tree 

All  tall  and  glittering  fire,  and  that  she  wrote 

Like  the  same  fire  caught  up  to  Heaven  and  held  there, 

A  frozen  blaze  before  it  broke  and  fell. 

Ah,  me'  I  wish  I  could  have  talked  to  Sapho, 

Surprised  her  reticences  by  flinging  mine 

Into  the  wind.  This  tossing  oil  of  garments 

Which  cloud  the  soul  is  none  too  easy  doing 

With  us  today.  But  still  I  think  with  Sapho 

One  might  accomplish  it,  were  she  in  the  mood 

To  bare  her  loveliness  of  words  and  tell 

The  reasons,  as  she  possibly  conceived  them, 

Of  why  they  are  so  lovely.  Just  to  know 

How  she  came  at  them,  just  to  watch 

The  crisp  sea  sunshine  playing  on  her  hair, 

And  listen,  thinking  all  the  while  'twas  she 

Who  spoke  and  that  we  two  were  sisters 

Of  a  strange,  isolated  little  family. 

And  she  is  Sapho  —  Sapho  —  not  Miss  or  Mrs., 

A  leaping  fire  we  call  so  for  convenience. 

But  Mrs.  Browning  —  who  would  ever  think 

Of  such  presumption  as  to  call  her  "Ba." 

Which  draws  the  perfect  line  between  sea-clifTs 

And  a  closc-shuttcrcd  room  in  Wimpolc  Street. 

Sapho  could  fly  her  impulses  like  bright 

Balloons  tip-tilting  to  a  morning  air 

And  write  about  it.  Mrs.  Browning's  heart 

Was  squeezed  in  stiff  conventions.  So  she  lay 

Stretched  out  upon  a  sofa,  reading  Greek 

And  speculating,  as  I  must  suppose, 

In  just  this  way  on  Sapho;  all  the  need, 

The  huge,  imperious  need  of  loving,  crushed 

Within  the  body  she  believed  so  sick. 

And  it  was  sick,  poor  lady,  because  words 

Are  merely  simulacra  after  deeds 


202  AMY  LOWELL 

Have  wrought  a  pattern;  when  they  take  the  place 

Of  actions  they  breed  a  poisonous  miasma 

Which,  though  it  leave  the  brain,  eats  up  the  body. 

So  Mrs.  Browning,  aloof  and  delicate, 

Lay  still  upon  her  sofa,  all  her  strength 

Going  to  uphold  her  over-topping  brain. 

It  seems  miraculous,  but  she  escaped 

To  freedom  and  another  motherhood 

Than  that  of  poems.  She  was  a  very  woman 

And  needed  both. 

If  I  had  gone  to  call, 

Would  Wimpole  Street  have  been  the  kindlier  place, 
Or  Casa  Guidi,  in  which  to  have  met  her? 
I  am  a  little  doubtful  of  that  meeting, 
For  Queen  Victoria  was  very  young  and  strong 
And  all-pervading  m  her  apogee 
At  just  that  time.  If  we  had  stuck  to  poetry, 
Sternly  refusing  to  be  drawn  ofl  by  mesmerism 
Or  Roman  revolutions,  it  might  have  done. 
For,  after  all,  she  is  another  sister, 
But  always,  I  rather  think,  an  older  sister 
And  not  herself  so  curious  a  technician 
As  to  admit  newfangled  modes  of  writing — 
"Except,  of  course,  in  Robert,  and  that  is  neither 
Here  nor  there  for  Robert  is  a  genius." 
I  do  not  like  the  turn  this  dream  is  taking, 
Since  I  am  very  fond  of  Mrs.  Browning 
And  very  much  indeed  should  like  to  hear  her 
Graciously  asking  me  to  call  her  "Ba." 
But  then  the  Devil  of  Verisimilitude 
Creeps  in  and  forces  me  to  know  she  wouldn't. 
Convention  again,  and  how  it  chafes  my  nerves, 
For  we  are  such  a  little  family 
Of  singing  sisters,  and  as  if  I  didn't  know 
What  those  years  felt  like  tied  down  to  the  sofa. 
Confound  Victoria,  and  the  slimy  inhibitions 
She  loosed  on  all  us  Anglo-Saxon  creatures' 
Suppose  there  hadn't  been  a  Robert  Browning, 
No  "Sonnets  from  the  Portuguese"  would  have  been  written. 
They  are  the  first  of  all  her  poems  to  be, 
One  might  say,  fertilized.  For,  after  all, 
A  poet  is  flesh  and  blood  as  well  as  brain; 
And  Mrs.  Browning,  as  I  said  before, 
Was  very,  very  woman.  Well,  there  are  two 
Of  us,  and  vastly  unlike  that's  for  certain. 
Unlike  at  least  until  we  tear  the  veils 
Away  which  commonly  gird  souls.  I  scarcely  think 
Mrs.  Browning  would  have  approved  the  process 
In  spite  of  what  had  surely  been  relief; 
For  speaking  souls  must  always  want  to  speak 
Even  when  bat-eyed,  narrow-minded  Queens 


AMY  LOWELL  203 

Set  prudishness  to  keep  the  keys  of  impulse. 
Then  do  the  frowning  Gods  invent  new  banes 
And  make  the  need  of  sofas.  But  Sapho  was  dead 
And  I,  and  others,  not  yet  peeped  above 
The  edge  of  possibility.  So  that's  an  end 
To  speculating  over  tea-time  talks 
Beyond  the  movement  of  pentameters 
With  Mrs.  Browning. 

But  I  go  dreaming  on, 
*     In  love  with  these  my  spiritual  relations. 
I  rather  think  I  see  myself  walk  up 
A  flight  of  wooden  steps  and  ring  a  bell 
And  send  a  card  in  to  Miss  Dickinson. 
Yet  that's  a  very  silly  way  to  do. 
I  should  have  taken  the  dream  twist-ends  about 
And  climbed  over  the  fence  and  found  her  deep 
Engrossed  in  the  doings  of  a  humming-bird 
Among  nasturtiums.  Not  having  expected  strangers, 
She  might  forget  to  think  me  one,  and  holding  up 
A  finger  say  quite  casually:  "Take  care. 
Don't  frighten  him,  he's  only  just  begun." 
"Now  this,"  I  well  believe  I  should  have  thought, 
"Is  even  better  than  Sapho.  With  Emily 
You're  really  here,  or  never  anywhere  at  all 
In  range  of  mind."  Wherefore,  having  begun 
In  the  strict  center,  we  could  slowly  progress 
To  various  circumferences,  as  we  pleased. 


Good-by,  my  sisters,  all  of  you  are  great, 

And  all  of  you  are  marvelously  strange, 

And  none  of  you  has  any  word  for  me. 

I  cannot  write  like  you,  I  cannot  think 

In  terms  of  Pagan  or  of  Christian  now. 

I  only  hope  that  possibly  some  day 

Some  other  woman  with  an  itch  for  writing 

May  turn  to  me  as  I  have  turned  to  you 

And  chat  with  me  a  brief  few  minutes.  How 

We  lie,  we  poets!  It  is  three  good  hours 

I  have  been  dreaming.  Has  it  seemed  so  long 

To  you?  And  yet  I  thank  you  for  the  time, 

Although  you  leave  me  sad  and  self-distrustful, 

For  older  sisters  are  very  sobering  things. 

Put  on  your  cloaks,  my  dears,  the  motor's  waiting. 

No,  you  have  not  seemed  strange  to  me,  but  near, 

Frightfully  near,  and  rather  terrifying. 

I  understand  you  all,  for  in  myself — 

Is  that  presumption?  Yet  indeed  it's  true — 

We  are  one  family.  And  still  my  answer 

Will  not  be  any  one  of  yours,  I  see. 

Well,  never  mind  that  now.  Good  night!  Good  night  I 


204 


RIDGELY  TORRENCE 


Ridgely  Torrence 

(Frederic)  Ridgely  Torrence  was  born  at  Xenia,  Ohio,  November  27,  1875,  and 
was  educated  at  Miami  and  Princeton  University.  For  several  years  he  was  librarian 
of  the  Astor  Library  in  New  York  City  (1897-1901),  later  assuming  an  editorial 
position  on  the  Cosmopolitan  Magazine.  He  was,  for  several  years,  poetry  editor  of 
The  New  Republic. 

His  first  volume,  The  House  of  a  Hundred  Lights  (1900),  bears  the  grave  sub- 
title "A  Psalm  of  Experience  after  Reading  a  Couplet  of  Bidpai."  It  is  a  whimsical 
hodge-podge  of  philosophy,  love  lyrics,  artlcssncss  and  impudence. 

Not  until  a  quarter  of  a  century  later  did  Torrence  publish  his  second  volume  of 
verse.  In  the  meantime,  poems  of  his  had  attracted  attention  upon  their  appearance 
in  magazines  and  a  few  of  his  lyrics  had  been  quoted  so  often  that  they  were  fa- 
miliar to  those  who  had  never  heard  of  Torrcnce's  other  work.  Torrence  had  re- 
mained in  the  peculiar  position  of  one  whose  best  verse  was  not  only  unprocurable, 
but  unprinted.  Hespendes  (1925)  remedied  this  strange  circumstance.  Like  his>  first 
volume,  this  is  not  a  large  book,  but  these  one  hundred  pages  contain  definite  and 
distinguished  poetry.  In  Hespendes  one  finds  the  magnificent  "Eye-Witness,"  a  most 
original  treatment  of  the  theme  of  Christ's  second  coming,  the  purely  lyrical  "The 
Singers  in  a  Cloud"  and  that  brief  epic,  "The  Bird  and  the  Tree"  which  is  as  famous 
as  it  is  stirring.  Poems  ( 1941)  contains  some  new  and  some  previously  published  work. 

Between  Torrcnce's  earliest  and  most  recent  volume,  three  of  his  plays  were  pub- 
lished: El  Dorado  (1903),  Abelard  and  Heloise  (1907),  and  Granny  Maumec,  The 
Rider  of  Di earns,  Simon  the  Cytenian  (1917).  The  last  group,  being  three  plays  for 
a  Negro  theater,  contains  the  best  of  Torrence's  dramatic  writing.  lie  has  caught 
here,  particularly  in  Gianny  Maumee  and  The  Rider  of  Dreams,  something  of  that 
high  color  which  the  Negro  himself  has  begun  to  articulate. 


THE    BIRD    AND    THE    TREE 

Blackbird,  blackbird  in  the  cage, 
There's  something  wrong  tonight. 
Far  off  the  sheriff's  footfall  dies, 
The  minutes  crawl  like  last  year's  flies 
Between  the  bars,  and  like  an  age 

The  hours  are  long  tonight. 

* 

The  sky  is  like  a  heavy  lid 
Out  here  beyond  the  door  tonight. 
What's  that?  A  mutter  down  the  street. 
What's  that?  The  sound  of  yells  and  feet. 
For  what  you  didn't  do  or  did 
You'll  pay  the  score  tonight. 

No  use  to  reek  with  reddened  sweat, 
No  use  to  whimper  and  to  sweat. 
They've  got  the  rope;  they've  got  the  guns, 
They've  got  the  courage  and  the  guns; 


An'  that's  the  reason  why  tonight 

No  use  to  ask  them  any  more. 

They'll  fire  the  answer  through  the  door— 

You're  out  to  die  tonight. 

There  where  the  lonely  cross-road  lies, 
There  is  no  place  to  make  replies; 
But  silence,  inch  by  inch,  is  there, 
And  the  right  limb  for  a  lynch  is  there; 
And  a  lean  daw  waits  for  both  your  eyes, 
Blackbird. 

Perhaps  you'll  meet  again  some  place. 
Look  for  the  mask  upon  the  face; 
That's  the  way  you'll  know  them  there — 
A  white  mask  to  hide  the  face. 
And  you  can  halt  and  show  them  there 
The  things  that  they  are  deaf  to  now, 
And  they  can  tell  you  what  they  meant — 


RIDGELY  TORRENCE 

To  wash  the  blood  with  blood.  But  how 
If  you  are  innocent? 

Blackbird  singer,  blackbird  mute, 

They  choked  the  seed  you  might- have  found. 

Out  of  a  thorny  field  you  go — 

For  you  it  may  be  better  so — 

And  leave  the  sowers  of  the  ground 

To  eat  the  harvest  of  the  fruit, 

Blackbird. 


THE    SON 

(Southern  Ohio  Market  Town) 

I  heard  an  old  farm-wife, 
Selling  some  barley, 


205 


Mingle  her  life  with  life 
And  the  name  "Charley." 

Saying:  "The  crop's  all  in, 
We're  about  through  now; 
Long  nights  will  soon  begin, 
We're  just  us  two  now. 

"Twelve  bushels  at  sixty  cents, 
It's  all  I  carried — 
He  sickened  making  fence; 
He  was  to  be  married — 

"It  feels  like  frost  was  near — 
His  hair  was  curly. 
The  spring  was  late  that  year, 
But  the  harvest  early." 


Robert  Frost 

ALTHOUGH  known  as  the  chief  interpreter  of  New  England,  Robert  (Lcc)  Frost 
was  born  in  San  Francisco-California,  March  26,  1875.  His  father,  bom  in 
New  Hampshire,  taught  school,  edited  a  paper,  entered  politics,  and  moved  to  San 
Francisco  where  his  "copperhead"  sympathy  with  the  South  led  him  to  christen  his 
son  Robert  Lee.  Frost's  mother,  after  the  death  of  her  husband,  supported  herself 
and  her  children  by  teaching  school;  bringing  the  family  back  East  to  the  towns 
and  hills  where,  for  eight  generations,  his  forefathers  had  lived  and  where,  much 
later,  Frost  was  to  uphold  the  tradition  by  lecturing,  accepting  an  "idle  professor- 
ship" ("being  a  sort  of  poetic  radiator")  at  Amherst,  and  buying  farms  in  Vermont. 
Atter  graduating  from  the  high  school  at  Lawrence,  Massachusetts,  in  1892,  Frost 
entered  Dartmouth  College,  where  he  remained  only  a  few  months.  The  routine  of 
study  was  too  much  for  him  and  he  decided  to  earn  his  living  and  became  a  bobbin- 
boy  in  one  of  the  mills  at  Lawrence.  He  had  already  begun  to  write  poetryjaTew 
oThis  verses  had  appeared  in  The  Independent.  But  the  strange,  soil-flavored^  quality 
which  even  then  distinguished  his  lines  was  not  relished  by  the  editors,  and  the 
very  magazines  to- which  he  sent  poems  that  today  arc  famous  rejected  his  verse 
with  unanimity.  For  twenty  years  Frost  continued  to  write  his  highly  characteristic 
work  in  spite  of  the  discouraging  apathy,  and  for  twenty  years  the  poet  remained 
unknown. 

In  1897,  two  years  after  his  marriage,  Frost  moved  his  family  to  Cambridge, 
Massachusetts,  pntcring  Harvard  in  a  final  determination  to  achieve  culture.  This 
time  he  followed  the  curriculum  for  two  years,  but  at  the  end  of  that  dry  period  he 
stopped  trying  to  learn  and  started  to  teach.  (Curiously  enough,  though  Frost  made 
light  of  and  even  ridiculed  his  scholarship,  his  marks  in  Greek  and  the  classical 
studies  were  always  exceptionally  high.)  For  three  years  he  followed  the  family  tra- 
dition and  taught  school  in  New  England;  he  also  made  shoes,  edited  a  weekly 


206  ROBERT  FROST 

paper,  and  in  1900  became  a  farmer  at  Derry,  New  Hampshire.  During  the  next 
eleven  years  Frost  labored  to  wrest  a  living  from  stubborn  hills  with  scant  success. 
Loneliness  claimed  him  for  its  own;  the  rocks  refused  to  give  him  a  living;  the 
literary  world  continued  to  remain  oblivious  of  his  existence.  Frost  sought  a  change 
of  environment  and,  after  a  few  years'  teaching  at  Derry  and  Plymouth,  New  Hamp- 
shire, sold  his  farm  and,  with  his  wife  and  four  children,  sailed  for  England  in 
September,  1912. 

For  the  first  time  in  his  life,  Frost  moved  in  a  literary  world.  Groups  merged, 
dissolved  and  separated  overnight;  controversy,,  and  creation  were  in  the  air.  A 
friendship  was  established  with  the  poets  Abercrombie,  Brooke  and  Gibson,  a  close 
intimacy  with  Edward  Thomas.  Here  Frost  wrote  most  of  his  longer  narratives, 
took  his  lyrics  to  a  publisher  with  few  hopes,  went  back  to  the  suburban  town  of 
Beaconsfield  and  turned  to  other  matters.  A  few  months  later  A  Bov's  Will  (1913) 
was  published  and  Frost  was  recognized  at  once  as  one  of  the  authentic  voices  of 
modern  poetry. 

A  Boy's  Will  is  seemingly  subjective;  in  spite  of  certain  reminiscences  of  Brown- 
ing it  is  no  set  of  derivations,  An  A  Boy's  Will  Frost  is  not  yet  completely  in  pos- 
session of  his  own  idiom;  but  the  timbre  is  recognizably  his.  No  one  but  Frost  could 
have  written  "Reluctance"  or  "The  Tuft  of  Flowers."  Wholly  lyrical,  this  volume, 
lacking  the  concentrated  emotion  of  his  subsequent  works,  is  a  significant  introduc- 
tion to  the  following  book,  which  became  an  international  classic.  Early  in  1914, 
Frost  leased  a  small  place  in  Gloucestershire;  in  the  spring  of  the  same  yearjNorth 
of  Boston  (1914),  one  of  the  most  intensely  American  books  ever  printed,  was  pub- 
lished in  England.  (See  Preface. )/This  is,  as  he  has  called  it,  a  "bookjof  j>eople."  And 
it  is  more  than  that — it  is  a  book  of  backgrounds  as  living  and  dramatic  as  the 
people  they  overshadow.  Frost  vivifies  a  stone  wall,  an  empty  cottage,  a  grindstone, 
a  mountain,  a  forgotten  wood-pile  left 

To  warm  the  frozen  swamp  as  best  it  could 
With  the  slow,  smokeless  burning  of  decay. 

North  of  Boston,  like  its  successor,  contains  much  of  the  finest  poetry  of  our  time. 
fijch  in  it^  actualities,  richer  in  its  spiritual  values,  £very_  line JJiavjCS.  with  the  double 
force  of  observation. .and_unplication.  The  very  first  poem  in  the  book  illustrates 
this  power  of  character  and  symbohsni.  Although  Frost  is  not  arguing  for  anything 
in  particular,  one  senses  here  something  more  than  the  enemies  of  walls.  In  "Mend- 
ing Wall,"  we  see  two  elemental  and  opposed  forces.  "Something  there  is  that 
doesn't  love  a  wall,"  insists  the  seeker  after  causes;  "Good  fences  make  good  neigh- 
bors," doggedly  replies  the  literal-minded  lover  of  tradition.  Here,  beneath  the  whim- 
sical turns  and  pungency  of  expression,  we  have  the  essence  of  nationalism  versus 
the  internationalist:  the  struggle,  though  the  poet  would  be  the  last  to  prod  the 
point,  between  blind  obedience  to  custom  and  questioning  iconoclasm. 

So  with  all  of  Frost's  characters.  Like  the  worn-out  incompetent  in  "The  Death 
of  the  Hired  Man"  (one  of  the  finest  genre  pictures  of  our  time),f^r  the  autobio- 
graphical country  boy  climbing  "black  branches  up  a  snow-white  trunk  toward 
heaven"  in  "Birches,>or  the  positive,  tight-lipped  old  lady  in  "The  Black  Cottage," 
or  the  headlong  but  laconic  Brown  of  "Brown's  Descent," /nis  people  are  always 
amplified  through  the  poet's  circumlocutory  but  precise  psychology.  They  remain 


ROBERT  FROST  207 

close  to  their  soil/Frost's  monologs  and  dramatic  idyls,  written  in  a  conversational 
blank  verse,  establish  the  connection  between  the  vernacular  and  the  language  of 
literature;  they  remain  rooted  in  realism.  But  Frost  is  never  ajphptographic  realist. 
"There  are,"  he  once  said,  "two  types  of  realist  —  the  one  who  offers  a  good  deal  of 
dirt  with  his  potato  to  show  that  it  is  a  real  one;  and  the  one  who  is  satisfied  with 
the  potato  brushed  clean.  I'm  inclined  to  be  the  second  kind.  .  .  .  To  me,  the  thing 
that  art  does  for  life  is  to  clean  it,  to  strip  it  to  form."  X 

In  March,  1915,  Frost  came  back  to  America  —  to  a  hill  outside  of  Franconia,  New 
Hampshire.  Noi  th  of  Boston  had  been  reprinted  in  the  United  States  and  its  author, 
who  had  left  the  country  an  unknown  writer,  returned  to  find  himself  famous. 
Honors  were  awarded  to  him;  within  ten  years  one  university  after  another  con- 
ferred degrees  upon  him  who  was  unwilling  to  graduate  from  any  of  them;  he  be- 
came "professor  in  residence"  at  Amherst.  His  lectures  (actually  glorifi 


speculations)  were  notable,  although  he  permitted  only  one  of  them,  Education  by 
Poetry  (1930),  which  Frost  called  "a  meditative  monologue,"  to  be  reduced  to  print. 

Mountain  Interval,  containing  some  of  Frost's  most  characteristic  poems 
("Birches,"  and  "An  Old  Man's  Winter  Night"  are  typical),  appeared  in  1916.  The 
idiom  is  the  same  as  in  the  earlier  volumes,  but  the  notes  arc  more  varied,  the  lyrics 
intensified,  the  assurance  is  stronger.  The  subtle  variations  of  the  tones  of  speech 
find  their  sympathetic  reporter  here;  the  lines  disclose  delicate  shades  of  emphasis 
in  the  way  they  present  an  entire  scene  by  giving  only  a  significant  detail.  Alto- 
gether natural,  yet  fanciful  no  less  than  realistic,  this  poetry  escapes  labels,  "but," 
Frost  once  said,  with  a  suspicion  of  a  twinkle,  "if  I  must  be  classified  as  a  poet,  I 
might  be  called  a  Synecdochist;  for  I  prefer  the  synecdoche  in  poetry  —  that  figure 
of  speech  in  which  we  use  a  part  for  the  whole." 

New  Hampshire  (1923),  which  was  awarded  the  Pulitzer  Prize  for  the  best  vol- 
ume of  poetry  published  in  1923,  synthesizes  Frost's  qualities:  it  combines  the  stark 
unity  of  North  of  Boston  and  the  diffused  geniality  of  Mountain  IntetvaL  If  one 
thing  predominates,  it  is  a  feeling  of  quiet  classicism;  the  poet  has  lowered  his  voice 
but  not  the  strength  of  his  convictions.  To  say,  as  was  said,  that  Frost  gives  us  a 
poetry  "without  the  delight  of  the  senses,  without  the  glow  of  warm  feeling"  is  — 
particularly  when  faced  with  New  Hampshire  —  to  utter  an  absurdity.  Frost,  in  spite 
of  a  superficial  underemphasis,  does  not  hesitate  to  declare  his  close  affection.  Such 
poems  as  "Two  Look  at  Two,"  with  its  tremendous  wave  of  love,  "To  Earthward," 
with  its  unreserved  intensity,  even  the  brilliantly  condensed  "Fire  and  Ice,"  with  its 
candidly  registered  passion  —  all  these  brim  with  a  physical  radiance,  with  the  very 
delight  and  pain  of  the  senses.  Nor  is  the  fanciful  by-play,  the  sly  banter  so  char- 
acteristic of  this  poet,  absent  from  the  volume.  Who  but  Frost  could  put  so  whim- 
sical an  accent  in  the  farewell  to  an  orchard  entitled  "Good-by  and  Keep  Cold";  who 
but  he  could  summon,  with  so  few  strokes,  the  frightened  colt  "with  one  forefoot 
on  the  wall,  the  other  curled  at  his  breast"  in  "The  Runaway"?  The  very  scheme  of 
New  Hampshire  is  an  extended  whimsicality:  he  offers  the  contents  of  the  volume 
as  a  series  of  explanatory  notes  (and  grace  notes)  to  the  title  poem,  which  is  sup- 
posed to  be  the  book's  laison  d'etre.  The  long  poems  (the  "notes")  rank  with  the 
narrative  monologs  in  North  of  Boston;  the  "grace  notes"  contain  not  merely  Frost's 
finest  lines  but  some  of  the  most  haunting  lyrics  ever  written  by  an  American.  Such 
a  poem  as  "Stopping  by  Woods  on  a  Snowy  Evening"  once  in  the  mind  of  a  reader 


208  *  ROBERT  FROST 

will  never  leave  it.  Had  Frost  written  nothing  but  these  thirty  "grace  notes"  his 
place  in  poetry  would  be  assured.  A  revised  Selected  Poems  (revised  in  1928  and 
1935)  and  a  rearranged  Collected  Poems  (1930)  which  again  won  the  Pulitzer  Prize, 
confirmed  the  conclusions;  the  unpretentious  bucolics  had  become  contemporary 
classics. 

It  has  been  said  that  Frost's  work  suffers  from  an  exclusiveness,  and  even  his 
most  ardent  admirers  would  be  willing  to  admit  that  his  is  not  an  indiscriminately 
inclusive  passion  like  Whitman's./But  Frost  loves  what  he  loves  with  a  fierce  at- 
tachment, a  tenderness  fixed  beyond  a  more  easily  transferred  regard.  His  devotion 
to  the  intimacies  of  earth  is,  even  more  than  Wordsworth's,  rich,  almost  inordinate 
in  its  fidelity;  what  his  emotion  (or  his  poetry)  may  lack  in  windy  range,  is  trebly 
compensated  for  by  its  untroubled  depths,  r 

This  is  more  true  than  ever  of  West-Running  Broo^  (1928)  which  was  hailed 
with  loud — and  misleading — enthusiasm.  No  contemporary  poet  received  more 
praise  than  Frost,  and  none  was  more  praised  for  the  wrong  attributes.  As  late  as 
1928,  most  of  the  critics  were  surprised  that  the  writer  identified  with  the  long  mono- 
logs  in  North  of  Boston  should  turn  to  lyrics,  forgetting  that  Frost's  first  volume 
(written  in  the  1890*5  and  published  twenty  years  later)  was  wholly  and  insistently 
lyrical.  One  reviewer,  echoing  the  false  platitude  concerning  New  England  bleak- 
ness, applauded  Frost's  almost  colorless  reticence,  his  "preference  for  black  and 
white."  Another  made  the  discovery  that  "where  he  was  formerly  content  toflunix.a 
landscape  .  .  .  here  the  emphasis  is  primarily  the  poet's  emotion."  A  more  under- 
standing consideration  of  Frost's  poetry  would  have  instructed  the  critics.  They 
would  have  seen  that  no  volumes  have  ever  been  less  black  and  white,  no  poetry 
so  delicately  shaded.  The  so-called  inhibitions  disappear  upon  rereading.  Frost's 
poems  are  only  superficially  reticent;  actually  they  are  profound  and  personal  revela- 
tions. Frost  has  never  been  "content  to  limn  a  landscape."  He  cannot  suggest  a 
character  or  a  countryside  without  informing  the  subject  with  his  own  philosophy, 
a  philosophy  whose  bantering  accents  cannot  hide  a  moral  earnestness.  Beyond  the 
fact  ("the  dearest  dream  that  labor  knows"),  beyond  the  tone  of  voice,  which  is — 
at  least  technically — the  poet's  first  concern,  there  is  that  ardent  and  unifying  emo- 
tion which  is  Frost's  peculiar  quality  and  his  essential  spirit.  Nothing  could  prove 
it  more  fully  than  the  title-poem  with  its  seemingly  casual  but  actually  cosmic  phi- 
losophy. Such  poetry,  with  its  genius  for  suggestive  understatement,  establishes 
Frost  among  the  first  of  contemporary  writers  and  places  him  with  the  very  best 
of  American  poets  past  or  present.  It  is  not  the  technique  nor  even  the  thought, 
but  the  essence  which  finally  convinces;  the  reader  is  fortified  by  Frost's  serenity, 

Zengthencd  by  his  strength. 
West-Running  Eroo\  is  a  reflection  and  restatement  of  all  that  has  gone  before. 
The  autobiographical  references  are  a  little  more  outspoken;  Amy  Lowell's  assertion 
that  "there  is  no  poem  which  has  San  Francisco  as  a  background  nor  which  seems 
to  owe  its  inception  to  the  author's  early  life"  is  answered  again  and  again  by  poems 
which  are  packed  with  the  poet's  youthyThus  a  student  will  learn  that  the  pre- 
sumably "late"  poem  entitled  "On  Going  Unnoticed"  was  written  as  early  as  1901; 
the  poem  "Bereft"  was  conceived  about  1893;  and  "Once  by  the  Pacific"  is  half- 
humorously  dated  "as  of  about  1880" — at  which  time  the  poet  was  exactly  six 
years  old. 


ROBERT  FROST  209 

/  The  poetry  published  between  Frost's  fiftieth  and  sixtieth  years  grew  in  serenity 
and  intimacy.  The  lyrics  became  warmer  and  more  musical,  the  communication 
more  expansive.  The  poet  still  maintained  his  role  of  half-earnest  synecdochist. 
He  reaffirmed  his  conviction:  "All  that  an  artist  needs  is  samples."  This  employ- 
ment of  the  part  for  the  whole  sharpens  the  ruminating  accents  of  "Tree  at  My 
Window,"  fastens  the  epigrammatic  irony  of  "The  Peaceful  Shepherd,"  quickens 
the  somber  power  of  "Bereft"  and  "Once  by  the  Pacific,"  points  the  teasing  play  of 
"The  Bear. V 

A  Further  Range  (1936)  reveals  the  renewed  play  of  the  serious  mind.  It  is 
emphasized  by  the  self-disclosing  "A  Leaf-Treader"  and  "Desert  Places"  and  "Two 
Tramps  in  Mud-Time,"  the  last  being  one  of  the  most  persuasive  poems  of  the 
period.  In  the  later  poems  Frost  is  more  than  ever  a  "revisionist";  he  uses  his 
power  to  revise  stereotypes  of  thought  as  well  as  cliches  of  expression.  If  it  were  not 
for  the  journalistic  connotations  one  might  acid  the  term  "humorist"  to  the  roll-call 
of  "classicist,"  "realist,"  and  "revisionist."  His  style,  so  seemingly  casual  and  yet 
so  inimitable,  so  colloquial  and  so  elevated,  has  a  way  of  uniting  oppositcs  It  is  a 
remarkable  prestidigitation  in  which  fact  becomes  fantasy,  and  the  fancy  is  more 
convincing  than  the  fact.  Inner  seriousness  and  outer  humor  continually  shift  their 
centers  of  gravity — and  levity — until  it  must  be  plain  to  all  but  pedants  that 
Frost's  banter  is  as  full  of  serious  implications  as  his  somber  speculations,  that  his 
playfulness  is  even  more  profound  than  his  profundity. 

A  new  and  comprehensive  Collected  Poems  (1939)  reveals  the  greater  scope  and 
increasing  depth  of  the  poet's  gift.  Published  in  Frost's  sixty-fifth  year,  much  of  the 
poetry  seems  younger  than  ever.  Retaining  the  tart  accent  of  his  forclathcis,  and 
sometimes  recording  what  might  be  called  New  England's  heritage  of  chronic 
adversity,  Frost  sounds  a  new  tenderness  and  humor./From  the  early  burlesque  at 
"Brown's  Descent"  through  the  ironic  "The  Egg  and  the  Machine"  to  the  out- 
right jocularity  of  "Departmental"  there  is  a  pungcnce  which  is  also  poignant. 
Here  is  disclosed  the  poetry  of  one  who,  like  Wordsworth,  knows  Nature  inti- 
mately, but  one  who,  unlike  the  poet  to  whom  Frost  has  been  compared,  refuses 
to  sentimentalize  "the  spirit  that  impels  all  things."  It  is  the  expression  of  a  man 
who  has  lived  among  men  of  many  kinds,  who  has  understood  and  even  sympa- 
thized with  the  conventions,  but  who  has  never  been  deceived  by  them./ 

To  the  1939  Collected  Poems  Frost  furnished  a  preface  entitled  "The  Figure  a 
Poem  Makes,"  a  piece  of  prose  as  characteristic  as  his  poetry.  In  it  he  wrote:  "A 
poem  begins  in  delight  and  ends  in  wisdom.  It  has  an  outcome  that,  though  un- 
foreseen, was  predestined  from  the  first  image  of  the  mood.  ,  .  .  No  surprise  for 
the  writer,  no  surprise  for  the  reader.  For  me  the  initial  delight  is  in  the  surprise 
of  remembering  something  I  didn't  know  I  knew."^< 

It  is  not  hard  to  discover  the  reason  for  Frost's  popularity  among  those  who 
create  poetry  as  well  as  those  who  do  not  otten  turn  to  it.  Readers  are  grateful 
to  such  a  poet  because  they  have  been  charmed  and,  at  the  same  time,  intellectually 
challenged.  They  are  happy  not  only  because  they  have  learned  something  new 
but  because  they  have  experienced  something  old — the  initial  delight  oi  "remem- 
bering something"  they  didn't  know  they  knew. 


210  ROBERT  FROST 


THE    PASTURE 


I'm  going  out  to  clean  the  pasture  spring;  I'm  going  out  to  fetch  the  little  calf 

I'll  only  stop  to  rake  the  leaves  away  That's  standing  by  the  mother.  It's  so  young, 

(And  wait  to  watch  the  water  clear,  I  may):  It  totters  when  she  licks  it  with  her  tongue. 

I  shan't  be  gone  long. — You  come  too.  I  shan't  be  gone  long. — You  come  too. 


THE    ONSET 

Always  the  same  when  on  a  fated  night 
At  last  the  gathered  snow  lets  down  as  white 
As  may  be  in  dark  woods,  and  with  a  song 
It  shall  not  make  again  all  winter  long — 
Of  hissing  on  the  yet  uncovered  ground — 
I  almost  stumble  looking  up  and  round, 
As  one,  who,  overtaken  by  the  end, 
Gives  up  his  errand  and  lets  death  descend 
Upon  him  where  he  is,  with  nothing  done 
To  evil,  no  important  triumph  won 
More  than  if  life  had  never  been  begun. 

Yet  all  the  precedent  is  on  my  side: 

I  know  that  winter-death  has  never  tried 

The  earth  but  it  has  failed;  the  snow  may  heap 

In  long  storms  an  undnfted  four  feet  deep 

As  measured  against  maple,  birch  or  oak; 

It  cannot  check  the  Peeper's  silver  croak; 

And  I  shall  sec  the  snow  all  go  down  hill 

In  water  of  a  slender  April  rill 

That  flashes  tail  through  last  year's  withered  brake 

And  dead  weed  like  a  disappearing  snake. 

Nothing  will  be  left  white  but  here  a  birch 

And  there  a  clump  of  houses  with  a  church. 


THE    TUFT    OF    FLOWERS 

I  went  to  turn  the  grass  once  after  one 
Who  mowed  it  in  the  dew  before  the  sun. 

The  dew  was  gone  that  made  his  blade  so  keen 
Before  I  came  to  view  the  leveled  scene. 

I  looked  for  him  behind  an  isle  of  trees; 
I  listened  for  his  whetstone  on  the  breeze. 

But  he  had  gone  his  way,  the  grass  all  mown, 
And  I  must  be,  as  he  had  been, — alone, 


ROBERT  FROST  211 

"As  all  must  be,'*  I  said  within  my  heart,. 
"Whether  they  work  together  or  apart." 

But  as  I  said  it,  swift  there  passed  me  by 
On  noiseless  wing  a  bewildered  butterfly, 

Seeking  with  memories  grown  dim  over  night 
Some  resting  flower  of  yesterday's  delight 

And  once  I  marked  his  flight  go  round  and  round, 
As  where  some  flower  lay  withering  on  the  ground. 

And  then  he  flew  as  far  as  eye  could  see, 

And  then  on  tremulous  wing  came  back  to  me. 

I  thought  of  questions  that  have  no  reply, 
And  would  have  turned  to  toss  the  grass  to  dry; 

But  he  turned  first,  and  led  my  eye  to  look 
At  a  tall  tuft  of  flowers  beside  a  biook, 

A  leaping  tongue  of  bloom  the  scythe  had  spared 
Beside  a  reedy  brook  the  scythe  had  bared. 

I  left  my  place  to  know  them  by  their  name, 
Finding  them  butterfly-weed  when  I  came. 

The  mower  in  the  dew  had  loved  them  thus, 
By  leaving  them  to  flourish,  not  for  us, 

Nor  yet  to  draw  one  thought  of  ours  to  him, 
But  from  sheer  morning  gladness  at  the  brim. 

The  butterfly  and  I  had  lit  upon, 
Nevertheless,  a  message  from  the  dawn, 

That  made  me  hear  the  wakening  birds  around, 
And  hear  his  long  scythe  whispering  to  the  ground, 

And  feel  a  spirit  kindred  to  my  own; 

So  that  henceforth  1  worked  no  more  alone; 

But  glad  with  him,  I  worked  as  with  his  aid, 
And  weary,  sought  at  noon  with  him  the  shade; 

And  dreaming,  as  it  were,  held  brotherly  speech 
With  one  whose  thought  I  had  not  hoped  to  reach. 

"Men  work  together,"  I  told  him  from  the  heart, 
"Whether  they  work  together  or  apart." 


212  ROBERT  FROST 

RELUCTANCE 

Out  through  the  fields  and  the  woods 

And  over  the  walls  I  have  wended; 
I  have  climbed  the  hills  of  view 

And  looked  at  the  world,  and  descended; 
I  have  come  by  the  highway  home, 

And  lo,  it  is  ended. 

The  leaves  arc  all  dead  on  the  ground, 

Save  those  that  the  oak  is  keeping 
To  ravel  them  one  by  one 

And  let  them  go  scraping  and  creeping 
Out  over  the  crusted  snow, 

When  others  are  sleeping. 

And  the  dead  leaves  lie  huddled  and  still, 

No  longer  blown  hither  and  thither; 
The  last  lone  aster  is  gone; 

The  flowers  of  the  witch-hazel  wither; 
The  heart  is  still  aching  to  seek, 

But  the  feet  question  "Whither?" 

Ah,  when  to  the  heart  of  man 

Was  it  ever  less  than  a  treason 
To  go  with  the  drift  of  things 

To  yield  with  a  grace  to  reason, 
And  bow  and  accept  the  end 

Of  a  love  or  a  season  ? 


MENDING    WALL 

Something  there  is  that  doesn't  love  a  wall, 
That  sends  the  fro/en-ground-swcll  under  it, 
And  spills  the  upper  bowlders  in  the  sun; 
And  makes  gaps  e\en  two  can  pass  abreast. 
The  work  ot  hunters  is  another  thing: 
I  have  come  after  them  and  made  repair 
Where  they  have  left  not  one  stone  on  a  stone, 
But  they  would  have  the  rabbit  out  of  hiding, 
To  please  the  yelping  dogs.  The  gaps  I  mean, 
No  one  has  seen  them  made  or  heard  them  made, 
But  at  spring  mending-time  we  find  them  there. 
I  let  my  neighbor  know  beyond  the  hill; 
And  on  a  day  we  meet  to  walk  the  line 
And  set  the  wall  between  us  once  again. 
We  keep  the  wall  between  us  as  we  go. 
To  each  the  bowlders  that  have  fallen  to  each. 
And  some  are  loaves  and  some  so  nearly  balls 
We  have  to  use  a  spell  to  make  them  balance:  * 
"Stay  where  you  are  until  our  backs  are  turned'" 


ROBERT  FROST 


213 


We  wear  our  fingers  rough  with  handling  them. 

Oh,  just  another  kind  of  outdoor  game, 

One  on  a  side.  It  comes  to  little  more: 

There  where  it  is  we  do  not  need  the  wall: 

He  is  all  pine  and  I  am  apple-orchard. 

My  apple  trees  will  never  get  across 

And  eat  the  cones  under  his  pines,  I  tell  him 

He  only  says,  "Good  fences  make  good  neighbors." 

Spring  is  the  mischief  in  me,  and  I  wonder 

If  I  could  put  a  notion  in  his  head: 

"Why  do  they  make  good  neighbors?  Isn't  it 

Where  there  are  cows?  But  here  there  are  no  cows. 

Before  I  built  a  wall  I'd  ask  to  know 

What  I  was  walling  in  or  walling  out, 

And  to  whom  I  was  like  to  give  o (Tense. 

Something  there  is  that  doesn't  love  a  wall, 

That  wants  it  down!"  I  could  say  "elves"  to  him, 

But  it's  not  elves  exactly,  and  I'd  rather 

He  said  it  for  himself  I  see  him  there, 

Bringing  a  stone  grasped  firmly  by  the  top 

In  each  hand,  like  an  old-stone  savage  armed. 

He  moves  in  darkness,  as  it  seems  to  me, 

Not  of  woods  only  and  the  shade  of  trees. 

He  will  not  go  behind  his  fathei's  saying, 

And  he  likes  having  thought  of  it  so  well 

He  says  again,  "Good  fences  make  good  neighbors." 


THE    COW    IN    APPLE-TIME 

Something  inspires  the  only  cow  of  late 

To  make  no  more  of  a  wall  than  an  open  gate, 

And  think  no  more  of  wall-builders  than  fools. 

Pier  face  is  flecked  with  pomace  and  she  drools 

A  cider  sirup.  Having  tasted  fruit, 

She  scorns  a  pasture  withering  to  the  root. 

She  runs  from  tree  to  tree  where  lie  and  sweeten 

The  windfalls  spiked  with  stubble  and  worm-eaten. 

She  leaves  them  bitten  when  she  has  to  fly. 

She  bellows  on  a  knoll  against  the  sky. 

Her  udder  shrivels  and  the  milk  goes  dry, 

THE  DEATH  OF  THE  HIRED  MAN 

Mar^sat  musing  on  the  lamp-flame  at  the  table 
Waiting  fon, Warren.  When  she  heard  his  step, 
She  ran  on  tip-toe  down  the  darkened  passage 
To  meet  him  in  the  doorway  with  the  news 
And  put  htm  on  his  guard.  "Silas  Is  back." 
She  pushed  him  outward  with  her  through  the  door 
And  shut  it  after  her.  "Be  kind,"  she  said. 


ROBERT  FROST 


She  took  the  market  things  from  Warren's  arms 

And  set  them  on  the  porch,  then  drew  him  down 

To  sit  beside  her  on  the  wooden  steps. 

"When  was  I  ever  anything  but  kind  to  him? 

But  I'll  not  have  the  fellow  back,"  he  said. 

"I  told  him  so  last  haying,  didn't  I? 

'If  he  left  then/  I  said,  'that  ended  it.' 

What  good  is  hc?  Who  else  will  harbor  him 

At  his  age  for  the  little  he  can  do? 

What  help  he  is  there's  no  depending  on. 

OfT  he  goes  always  when  I  need  him  most. 

'He  thinks  he  ought  to  earn  a  little  pay, 

Enough  at  least  to  buy  tobacco  with, 

So  he  won't  have  to  beg  and  be  beholden/ 

'All  right,'  I  say,  'I  can't  atford  to  pay 

Any  fixed  wages,  though  I  wish  I  could/ 

'Someone  else  can/  'Then  someone  else  will  have  to/ 

I  shouldn't  mind  his  bettering  himself 

If  that  was  what  it  was.  You  can  be  certain, 

When  he  begins  like  that,  there's  someone  at  him 

Trying  to  coax  him  off  with  pocket-money,  — 

In  haying  time,  when  any  help  is  scarce. 

In  winter  he  comes  back  to  us.  I'm  done." 

"Shf  not  so  loud:  he'll  hear  you,"  Mary  said. 
"I  want  him  to:  he'll  have  to  soon  or  late." 

"He's  worn  out.  He's  asleep  beside  the  stove. 
When  I  came  up  from  Rowe's  I  found  him  here, 
Huddled  against  the  barn-door  fast  asleep, 
A  miserable  sight,  and  frightening,  too  — 
You  needn't  smile  —  I  didn't  recognize  him  — 
I  wasn't  looking  for  him  —  and  he's  changed. 
Wait  till  you  see." 

"Where  did  you  say  he'd  been?" 

"He  didn't  say.  I  dragged  him  to  the  house, 
And  gave  him  tea  and  tried  to  make  him  smoke. 
I  tried  to  make  him  talk  about  his  travels, 
Nothing  would  do:  he  just  kept  nodding  off." 

"What  did  he  say?  Did  he  say  anything?" 
"But  little." 

"Anything?  Mary,  confess 
Fie  said  he'd  come  to  ditch  the  meadow  for  me/' 

"Warren'" 


ROBERT  FROST  2/5 

"But  did  he?  I  just  want  to  know." 

"Of  course  he  did.  What  would  you  have  him  say? 

Surely  you  wouldn't  grudge  the  jx>or  old  man 

Some  humble  way  to  save  his  self-respect. 

He  added,  if  you  really  care  to  know, 

He  meant  to  clear  the  upper  pasture,  too. 

That  sounds  like  something  you  have  heard  before? 

Warren,  I  wish  you  could  have  heard  the  way 

He  jumbled  everything.  I  stopped  to  look 

Two  or  three  times — he  made  me  feel  so  queer — 

To  see  if  he  was  talking  in  his  sleep. 

He  ran  on  Harold  Wilson — you  remember — 

The  boy  you  had  in  haying  four  years  since. 

He's  finished  school,  and  teaching  in  his  college. 

Silas  declares  you'll  have  to  get  him  back. 

He  says  they  two  will  make  a  team  for  work: 

Between  them  they  will  lay  tins  tarm  as  smooth' 

The  way  he  mixed  that  in  with  other  things. 

He  thinks  young  Wilson  a  likely  lad,  though  daft 

On  education — you  know  how  they  fought 

All  through  July  under  the  blazing  sun, 

Silas  up  on  the  cart  to  build  the-  load, 

Harold  along  beside  to  pitch  it  on." 

"Yes,  I  took  care  to  keep  well  out  of  earshot." 

"Well,  those  days  trouble  Silas  like  a  dream. 

You  wouldn't  think  they  would  How  some  things  linger! 

Harold's  young  college  boy's  assurance  piqued  him. 

After  so  many  years  he  slill  keeps  finding^ 

Good  arguments  he  sees  he  might  have  used. 

I  sympathize.  I  know  just  how  it  feds 

To  think  of  the  right  thing  to  say  too  late. 

Harold's  associated  in  his  mind  with  Latin. 

He  asked  me  what  I  thought  of  Harold's  saying 

He  studied  Latin  like  the  violin 

Because  he  liked  it — that  an  argument' 

He  said  he  couldn't  make  the  boy  believe 

He  could  find  water  with  a  hazel  prong — 

Which  showed  how  much  good  school  had  ever  done  him. 

He  wanted  to  go  over  that.  But  most  of  all 

He  thinks  if  he  could  have  another  chance 

To  teach  him  how  to  build  a  load  of  hay — " 

"I  know,  that's  Silas'  one  accomplishment. 
He  bundles  every  forkful  in  its  place, 
And  tags  and  numbers  it  for  future  reference, 
So  he  can  find  and  easily  dislodge  it 
In  the  unloading.  Silas  does  that  well. 
He  takes  it  out  m  bunches  like  birds'  nests. 


2/6  ROBERT  FROST 

You  never  see  him  standing  on  the  hay 
He's  trying  to  lift,  straining  to  lift  himself." 

"He  thinks  if  he  could  teach  him  that,  he'd  be 
Some  good  perhaps  to  someone  in  the  world. 
He  hates  to  see  a  boy  the  fool  of  books. 
Poor  Silas,  so  concerned  for  other  folk, 
And  nothing  to  look  backward  to  with  pride, 
And  nothing  to  look  forward  to  with  hope, 
Sonow  and  never  any  different." 

Part  of  a  moon  was  falling  down  the  west, 
Dragging  the  whole  sky  with  it  to  the  hills. 
Its  light  poured  softly  m  her  lap.  She  saw 
And  spread  her  apron  to  it.  She  put  out  her  hand 
Among  the  harp-like  morning-glory  strings, 
Taut  with  the  dew  from  garden  bed  to  eaves, 
As  if  she  played  unheard  the  tenderness 
That  wrought  on  him  beside  her  in  the  night. 
"Warren,"  she  said,  "he  has  come  home  to  die: 
You  needn't  be  afraid  he'll  leave  you  this  time." 

"Home,"  he  mocked  gently. 

"Yes,  what  else  but  home? 
It  all  depends  on  what  you  mean  by  home. 
Of  course  he's  nothing  to  us,  any  more 
Than  was  the  hound  that  came  a  stranger  to  us 
Out  of  the  woods,  worn  out  upon  the  trail." 

"Home  is  the  place  where,  when  you  have  to  go  there, 
They  have  to  take  you  in." 

"I  should  have  called  it 
Something  you  somehow  haven't  to  deserve." 

Warren  leaned  out  and  took  a  step  or  two, 
Picked  up  a  little  stick,  and  brought  it  back 
And  broke  it  in  his  hand  and  tossed  it  by. 
"Silas  has  better  claim  on  us,  you  think, 
Than  on  his  brother ?  Thirteen  little  miles 
As  the  road  winds  would  bring  him  to  his  door. 
Silas  has  walked  that  far  no  doubt  today. 
Why  didn't  he  go  there ?  His  brother's  rich, 
A  somebody — director  in  the  bank." 

"He  never  told  us  that." 

"We  know  it  though." 

"I  think  his  brother  ought  to  help,  of  course. 
I'll  see  to  that  if  there  is  need.  He  ought  of  right 


ROBERT  FROST  217 

To  take  him  in,  and  might  be  willing  to — 

He  may  be  better  than  appearances. 

But  have  some  pity  on  Silas  Do  you  think 

If  he'd  had  any  pride  in  claiming  kin 

Or  anything  he  looked  for  from  his  brother, 

He'd  keep  so  still  about  him  all  this  time?*' 

"I  wonder  what's  between  them." 

"I  can  tell  you. 

Silas  is  what  he  is — we  wouldn't  mind  him — 
But  just  the  kind  that  kinsfolk  can't  abide. 
He  never  did  a  thing  so  very  bad. 
He  don't  know  why  he  isn't  quite  as  good 
As  anyone.  He  won't  be  made  ashamed 
To  please  his  brother,  worthless  though  he  is." 

"I  can't  think  Si  ever  hurt  anyone." 

"No,  but  he  hurt  my  heart  the  way  he  lay 

And  rolled  his  old  head  on  that  sharp-edged  chair-back. 

He  wouldn't  let  me  put  him  on  the  lounge. 

You  must  go  in  and  see  what  you  can  do. 

I  made  the  bed  up  for  him  there  tonight. 

You'll  be  surprised  at  him — how  much  he's  broken. 

His  working  days  are  done;  I'm  sure  of  it." 

"I'd  not  be  in  a  hurry  to  say  that." 

"I  haven't  been.  Go,  look,  see  for  yourself. 
But,  Warren,  please  remember  how  it  is: 
He's  come  to  help  you  ditch  the  meadow. 
He  has  a  plan.  You  mustn't  laugh  at  him. 
He  may  not  speak  of  it,  and  then  he  may. 
I'll  sit  and  see  if  that  small  sailing  cloud 
Will  hit  or  miss  the  moon." 

It  hit  the  moon. 

Then  there  were  three  there,  making  a  dim  row, 
The  moon,  the  little  silver  cloud,  and  she. 

Warren  returned — too  soon,  it  seemed  to  her, 
Slipped  to  her  side,  caught  up  her  hand  and  waited. 

"Warren?"  she  questioned. 

"Dead,"  was  all  he  answered. 


2J8  ROBERT  FROST 

AFTER    APPLE-PICKING 

My  long  two-pointed  ladder's  sticking  through  a  tree 

Toward  heaven  still, 

And  there's  a  barrel  that  I  didn't  fill 

Beside  it,  and  there  may  be  two  or  three 

Apples  I  didn't  pick  upon  some  bough. 

But  I  am  done  with  apple-picking  now. 

Essence  of  winter  sleep  is  on  the  night, 

The  scent  of  apples:  I  am  drowsing  off. 

I  cannot  rub  the  strangeness  from  my  sight 

I  got  from  looking  through  a  pane  of  glass 

I  skimmed  this  morning  from  the  drinking  trough 

And  held  against  the  world  of  hoary  grass. 

It  melted,  and  I  let  it  fall  and  break. 

But  I  was  well 

Upon  my  way  to  sleep  before  it  fell, 

And  I  could  ttll 

What  form  my  dreaming  was  about  to  take. 

Magnified  apples  appear  and  disappear, 

Stem-end  and  blossom-end, 

And  every  fleck  of  russet  showing  clear. 

My  instep  arch  not  only  keeps  the  ache, 

It  keeps  the  pressure  of  a  ladder-round. 

I  feel  the  ladder  sway  as  the  boughs  bend. 

And  I  keep  hearing  from  the  cellar  bin 

The  rumbling  sound 

Of  load  on  load  of  apples  coming  in. 

For  I  have  had  too  much 

Of  apple-picking:  I  am  overtired 

Of  the  great  harvest  I  myself  desired. 

There  were  ten  thousand  fruit  to  touch, 

Cherish  in  hand,  lift  down,  and  not  let  fall. 

For  all 

That  struck  the  earth, 

No  matter  if  not  bruised  or  spiked  with  stubble, 

Went  surely  to  the  cider-apple  heap 

As  of  no  worth. 

One  can  sec  what  will  trouble 

This  sleep  of  mine,  whatever  sleep  it  is. 

Were  he  not  gone, 

The  woodchuck  could  say  whether  it's  like  his 

Long  sleep,  as  I  describe  its  coming  on, 

Or  just  some  human  sleep. 


AN    OLD    MAN    S    WINTER    NIGHT 

All  out  of  doors  looked  darkly  in  at  him 
Through  the  thin  frost,  almost  in  separate  stars, 
That  gathers  on  the  pane  in  empty  rooms. 
What  kept  his  eyes  from  giving  back  the  gaze 


ROBERT  FROST 


Was  the  lamp  tilted  near  them  in  his  hand. 

What  kept  him  from  remembering  what  it  was 

That  brought  him  to  that  creaking  room  was  age. 

He  stood  with  barrels  round  him — at  a  loss. 

And  having  scared  the  cellar  under  him 

In  clomping  there,  he  scared  it  once  again 

In  clomping  off;  and  scared  the  outer  night, 

Which  has  its  sounds,  familiar,  kkc  the  roar 

Of  trees  and  crack  of  branches,  common  things, 

But  nothing  so  like  beating  on  a  box. 

A  light  he  was  to  no  one  but  himself 

Where  now  he  sat,  concerned  with  he  knew  what; 

A  quiet  light,  and  then  not  even  that. 

He  consigned  to  the  moon,  such  as  she  was, 

So  late-arising,  to  the  broken  moon 

As  better  than  the  sun  in  any  case 

For  such  a  charge,  his  snow  upon  the  roof, 

His  icicles  along  the  wall  to  keep; 

And  slept.  The  log  that  shifted  with  a  jolt 

Once  in  the  stove,  disturbed  him  and  he  shifted, 

And  cased  his  heavy  breathing,  but  still  slept. 

One  aged  man — one  man — can't  fill  a  house, 

A  farm,  a  countryside,  or  if  he  can, 

It's  thus  he  does  it  of  a  winter  night. 

BIRCHES    , 

When  I  see  birches  bend  to  left  and  right 

Across  the  line  of  straightcr  darker  trees, 

I  like  to  think  some  boy's  been  swinging  them. 

But  swinging  doesn't  bend  them  down  to  stay. 

Ice-storms  do  that.  Often  you  must  have  seen  them 

Loaded  with  ice  a  sunny  winter  morning 

After  a  rain.  They  click  upon  themselves 

As  the  breeze  rises,  and  turn  many-colored 

As  the  stir  cracks  and  crazes  their  enamel. 

Soon  the  sun's  warmth  makes  them  shed  crystal  shells 

Shattering  and  avalanching  on  the  snow-crust — 

Such  heaps  of  broken  glass  to  sweep  away 

You'd  think  the  inner  dome  of  heaven  had  fallen. 

They  arc  dragged  to  the  withered  bracken  by  the  load, 

And  they  seem  not  to  break;  though  once  they  are  bowed 

So  low  for  long,  they  never  right  themselves: 

You  may  see  their  trunks  arching  in  the  woods 

Years  afterwards,  trailing  their  leaves  on  the  ground 

Like  girls  on  hands  and  knees  that  throw  their  hair 

Before  them  over  their  heads  to  dry  in  the  sun. 

But  I  was  going  to  say  when  Truth  broke  in 

With  all  her  matter-of-fact  about  the  ice-storm 

I  should  prefer  to  have  some  boy  bend  them 

As  he  went  out  and  in  to  fetch  the  cows — 


220  ROBERT  FROST 

Some  boy  too  far  from  town  to  learn  baseball, 

Whose  only  play  was  what  he  found  himself, 

Summer  or  winter,  and  could  play  alone. 

One  by  one  he  subdued  his  father's  trees 

By  riding  them  down  over  and  over  again 

Until  he  took  the  stiffness  out  of  them, 

And  not  one  but  hung  limp,  not  one  was  left 

For  him  to  conquer.  He  learned  all  there  was 

To  learn  about  not  launching  out  too  soon 

And  so  not  carrying  the  tree  away 

Clear  to  the  ground.  He  always  kept  his  poise 

To  the  top  branches,  climbing  carefully 

With  the  same  pains  you  use  to  fill  a  cup 

Up  to  the  brim,  and  even  above  the  brim. 

Then  he  flung  outward,  feet  first,  with  a  swish, 

Kicking  his  way  down  through  the  air  to  the  ground. 

So  was  I  once  myself  a  swinger  of  birches; 

And  so  I  dream  of  going  back  to  be. 

It's  when  I'm  weary  of  considerations, 

And  life  is  too  much  like  a  pathless  wood 

Where  your  face  burns  and  tickles  with  the  cobwebs 

Broken  across  it,  and  one  eye  is  weeping 

From  a  twig's  having  lashed  across  it  open. 

I'd  like  to  get  away  from  earth  awhile 

And  then  come  back  to  it  and  begin  over. 

May  no  fate  willfully  misunderstand  me 

And  half  grant  what  I  wish  and  snatch  me  away 

Not  to  return.  Earth's  the  right  place  for  love: 

I  don't  know  where  it's  likely  to  go  better. 

I'd  like  to  go  by  climbing  a  birch  tree, 

And  climb  black  branches  up  a  snow-white  trunk 

Toward  heaven,  till  the  tree  could  bear  no  more, 

But  dipped  its  top  and  set  me  down  again. 

That  would  be  good  both  going  and  coming  back. 

One  could  do  worse  than  be  a  swinger  of  birches. 

BROWN'S   DESCENT  And  blew  him  out  on  the  icy  crust 

OR,  THE  WILLY-NILLY  SLIDE  That  cased  the  world,  and  he  was  gone! 

Brown  lived  at  such  a  lofty  farm 

That  everyone  for  miles  could  sec  Walls  were  all  buried,  trees  were  few: 

His  lantern  when  he  did  his  chores  He  saw  no  stay  unless  he  stove 

In  winter  after  half-past  three.  A  hole  in  somewhere  with  his  heel. 

And  many  must  have  seen  him  make  But  thouSh  repeatedly  he  strove 

His  wild  descent  from  there  one  night, 

'Cross  lots,  'cross  walls   'cross  everything,  An(J  s          d  ^  ^  th;       {0  y^ 

Descnbmg  rings  of  lantern  light.  AnJ  somctlmes  something  seemed  to  yield, 

Between  the  house  and  barn  the  gale  He  gained  no  foothold,  but  pursued 

Got  him  by  something  he  had  on  His  journey  down  from  field  to  field. 


ROBERT  FROST 


221 


Sometimes  he  came  with  arms  outspread 
Like  wings  revolving  in  the  scene 

Upon  his  longer  axis,  and 
With  no  small  dignity  of  mien. 

Faster  or  slower  as  he  chanced, 
Sitting  or  standing  as  he  chose, 

According  as  he  feared  to  risk 
His  neck,  or  thought  to  spare  his  clothes, 

He  never  let  the  lantern  drop. 

And  some  exclaimed  who  saw  afar 
The  figure  he  described  with  it, 

"I  wonder  what  those  signals  are 

"Brown  makes  at  such  an  hour  of  night! 

He's  celebrating  something  strange. 
I  wonder  if  he's  sold  his  farm, 

Or  been  made  Master  of  the  Grange." 

He  reeled,  he  lurched,  he  bobbed,  he  checked; 

He  fell  and  made  the  lantern  rattle 
(But  saved  the  light  from  going  out). 

So  half-way  down  he  fought  the  battle 

Incredulous  of  his  own  bad  luck. 

And  then  becoming  reconciled 
To  everything,  he  gave  it  up 

And  came  down  like  a  coasting  child. 

"Well— I— be— "  that  was  all  he  said, 
As  standing  in  the  river  road, 


He  looked  back  up  the  slippery  slope 
(Two  miles  it  was)  to  his  abode. 

Sometimes  as  an  authority 
On  motor-cars,  I'm  asked  if  I 

Should  say  our  stock  was  petered  out, 
And  this  is  my  sincere  reply: 

Yankees  are  what  they  always  were. 

Don't  think  Brown  ever  gave  up  hope 
Of  getting  home  again  because 

He  couldn't  climb  that  slippery  slope; 

Or  even  thought  of  standing  there 

Until  the  January  thaw 
Should  take  the  polish  off  the  crust. 

lie  bowed  with  grace  to  natural  law, 

And  then  went  round  it  on  his  feet, 
After  the  manner  of  our  stock; 

Not  much  concerned  for  those  to  whom, 
At  that  particular  time  o'clock, 

It  must  have  looked  as  if  the  course 
He  steered  was  really  straight  away 

From  that  which  he  was  headed  for — 
Not  much  concerned  for  them,  I  say, 

But  now  he  snapped  his  eyes  three  times; 

Then  shook  his  lantern,  saying,  "He's 
'Bout  out'"  and  took  the  long  way  home 

By  road,  a  matter  of  several  miles. 


THE    RUNAWAY 

Once  when  the  snow  of  the  year  was  beginning  to  fall, 

We  stopped  by  a  mountain  pasture  to  say,  "Whose  colt?" 

A  little  Morgan  had  one  forefoot  on  the  wall, 

The  other  curled  at  his  breast.  He  dipped  his  head 

And  snorted  to  us.  And  then  he  had  to  bolt. 

We  heard  the  miniature  thunder  where  he  fled, 

And  we  saw  him,  or  thought  we  saw  him,  dim  and  gray, 

Like  a  shadow  against  the  curtain  of  falling  flakes. 

"I  think  the  little  fellow's  afraid  of  the  snow. 

He  isn't  winter-broken.  It  isn't  play 

With  the  little  fellow  at  all.  He's  running  away. 

I  doubt  if  even  his  mother  could  tell  him,  'Sakes, 

It's  only  weather.'  He'd  think  she  didn't  knowl 

Where  is  his  mother?  He  can't  be  out  alone." 

And  now  he  comes  again  with  a  clatter  ot  stone 

And  mounts  the  wall  again  with  whitcd  eyes 


222 


ROBERT  FROST 


And  all  his  tail  that  isn't  hair  up  straight. 
He  shudders  his  coat  as  if  to  throw  off  flies. 
"Whoever  it  is  that  leaves  him  out  so  late, 
When  other  creatures  have  gone  to  stall  and  bin, 
Ought  to  be  told  to  come  and  take  him  in." 


TO    EARTHWARD 

Love  at  the  lips  was  touch 
As  sweet  as  I  could  bear; 
And  once  that  seemed  too  much; 
I  lived  on  air 

That  crossed  me  from  -sweet  things, 
The  flow  of — was  it  musk 
From  hidden  grapevine  springs 
Down  hill  at  dusk? 

I  had  the  swirl  and  ache 
From  sprays  of  honeysuckle 
That  when  they're  gathered  shake 
Dew  on  the  knuckle. 

I  craved  strong  sweets,  but  those 
Seemed  strong  when  I  was  young; 
The  petal  of  the  rose 
It  was  that  stung. 

Now  no  joy  but  lacks  salt 
That  is  not  dashed  with  pain 
And  weariness  and  fault; 
I  crave  the  stain 


Of  tears,  the  aftermark 
Of  almost  too  much  love, 
The  sweet  of  bitter  bark 
And  burning  clove. 

When  stiff  and  sore  and  scarred 
I  take  away  my  hand 
From  leaning  on  it  hard 
In  grass  and  sand, 

The  hurt  is  not  enough: 
I  long  for  weight  and  strength 
To  feel  the  earth  as  rough 
To  all  my  length. 

FIRE    AND    ICE 

Some  say  the  world  will  end  in  fire> 

Some  say  in  ice. 

From  what  I've  tasted  of  desire 

I  hold  with  those  who  favor  fire. 

But  if  it  had  to  perish  twice, 

I  think  I  know  enough  of  hate 

To  say  that  for  destruction  ice 

Is  also  great 

And  would  suffice. 


TWO    LOOK    AT    TWO 

Love  and  forgetting  might  have  carried  them 

A  little  further  up  the  mountain  side 

With  night  so  near,  but  not  much  further  up. 

They  must  have  halted  soon  in  any  case 

With  thoughts  of  the  path  back,  how  rough  it  was 

With  rock  and  washout,  and  unsafe  in  darkness; 

When  they  were  halted  by  a  tumbled  wall 

With  barbed-wire  binding.  They  stood  facing  this, 

Spending  what  onward  impulse  they  still  had 

In  one  last  look  the  way  they  must  not  go, 

On  up  the  failing  path,  where,  if  a  stone 

Or  earthslide  moved  at  night,  it  moved  itself; 

No  footstep  moved  it.  "This  is  all,"  they  sighed, 

"Good-night  to  woods."  But  not  so;  there  was  more. 

A  doe  from  round  a  spruce  stood  looking  at  them 

Across  the  wall  as  near  the  wall  as  they. 


ROBERT  FROST  223 

She  saw  them  in  their  field,  they  her  in  hers. 

The  difficulty  of  seeing  what  stood  still, 

Like  some  up-ended  bowlder  split  in  two, 

Was  in  her  clouded  eyes:  they  saw  no  fear  there. 

She  seemed  to  think  that  two  thus  they  were  safe. 

Then,  as  if  they  were  something  that,  though  strange, 

She  could  not  trouble  her  mind  with  too  long, 

She  sighed  and  passed  unscared  along  the  wall. 

"This,  then,  is  all.  What  more  is  there  to  ask?" 

But  no,  not  yet.  A  snort  to  bid  them  wait. 

A  buck  from  round  the  spruce  stood  looking  at  them 

Across  the  wall,  as  near  the  wall  as  they. 

This  was  an  antlered  buck  of  lusty  nostril. 

Not  the  same  doe  come  back  into  her  place. 

He  viewed  them  quizzically  with  jerks  of  head, 

As  if  to  ask,  "Why  don't  you  make  some  motion? 

Or  give  some  sign  of  life?  Because  you  can't. 

I  doubt  if  you're  as  living  as  you  look." 

Thus  till  he  had  them  almost  feeling  dared 

To  stretch  a  proffering  hand — and  a  spell-breaking. 

Then  he  too  passed  unscared  along  the  wall. 

Two  had  seen  two,  whichever  side  you  spoke  from. 

"This  must  be  all."  It  was  all.  Still  they  stood, 

A  great  wave  from  it  going  over  them, 

As  if  the  earth  in  one  unlooked-for  favor 

Had  made  them  certain  earth  returned  their  love. 


ASKYPAIR  I  should  be  tempted  to  forget, 

I  think,  the  Crown  of  Rule, 
CANIS  MAJOR  Thc  Scalcs  o£  Tradc>  the  Cross  of 

The  Great  Ovcrdog,  As  hardly  worth  renewaL 

That  heavenly  beast 

With  a  star  in  one  eye,  For  these  have  governed  in  our  lives, 

Gives  a  leap  in  the  East.  And  sec  how  men  have  warred' 

The  Cross,  the  Crown,  the  Scales,  may  all 

He  dances  upright  As  well  have  been  the  Sword. 

All  the  way  to  the  West, 
And  never  once  drops 

j-*.        !•/•/•  B  li  K  J!i  l4    1 

On  his  forefeet  to  rest. 

Where  had  I  heard  this  wind  before 

I'm  a  poor  Underdog;  Change  like  this  to  a  deeper  roar? 

But  tonight  I  will  bark,  What  would  it  take  my  standing  there  for, 

With  the  Great  Overdog  Holding  open  a  restive  door, 

That  romps  through  the  dark.  Looking  down  hill  to  a  frothy  shore? 

Summer  was  past  and  day  was  past. 

THE  PEACEFUL  SHEPHERD  Somber  clouds  on  the  West  were  massed. 

If  heaven  were  to  do  again,  Out  in  the  porch's  sagging  floor 

And  on  the  pasture  bars  Leaves  got  up  in  a  coil  and  hissed, 

I  leaned  to  line  the  figures  in  Blindly  struck  at  my  knee  and  missed. 

Between  the  dotted  stars,  Something  sinister  in  the  tone 


224  ROBERT  FROST 

Told  me  my  secret  must  be  known:  Not  all  your  light  tongues  talking  aloud 

Word  I  was  in  the  house  alone  Could  be  profound. 

Somehow  must  have  gotten  abroad; 

Word  I  was  in  my  life  alone:  r>  «.  «.        T  u  i  j          i 

\\r    j  T  L  j  i  r   i       ^    i  ^ut>  trce>  I  have  seen  you  taken  and  tossed, 

Word  I  had  no  one  left  but  God.  A        r         L  t       T    i 

And  it  you  have  seen  me  when  1  slept, 

You  have  seen  me  when  I  was  taken  and 

TREE    AT    MY    WINDOW  Swept 

And  all  but  lost. 
Tree  at  my  window,  window  tree, 

My  sash  is  lowered  when  night  comes  on; 

But  let  there  never  be  curtain  drawn  That  daY  she  Put  our  hca(3s  together, 

Between  you  and  me,  Fate  had  her  imagination  about  her, 

Your  head  so  much  concerned  with  outer, 

Vague  dream-head  lifted  out  of  the  ground,     Mine  with  inner,  weather. 
And  thing  next  most  diffuse  to  cloud, 


WEST-RUNNING    BROOK 

"Fred,  where  is  north?" 

"North?  North  is  there,  my  love. 
The  brook  runs  west." 

"West-running  Brook  then  call  it." 
(West-running  Brook  men  call  it  to  this  day.) 
"What  docs  it  think  it's  doing  running  west 
When  all  the  other  country  brooks  flow  cast 
To  reach  the  ocean?  It  must  be  the  brook 
Can  trust  itself  to  go  by  contraries 
The  way  I  can  with  you — and  you  with  me — 
Because  we're — we're — I  don't  know  what  we  are. 
What  are  we?" 

"Young  or  ne\v?" 

"We  must  be  something. 

We've  said  we  two.  Let's  change  that  to  we  three. 
As  you  and  T  are  married  to  each  other, 
We'll  both  be  married  to  the  brook.  We'll  build 
Our  bridge  across  it,  and  the  bridge  shall  be 
Our  arm  thrown  over  it  asleep  beside  it. 
Look,  look,  it's  waving  to  us  with  a  wave 
To  let  us  know  it  hears  me." 

"Why,  my  dear, 

That  wave's  been  standing  off  this  jut  of  shore — " 
(The  black  stream,  catching  on  a  sunken  rock, 
Flung  backward  on  itself  in  one  white  wave, 
And  the  white  water  rode  the  black  forever, 
Not  gaining  but  not  losing,  like  a  bird 
While  feathers  from  the  struggle  of  whose  breast 
Flecked  the  dark  stream  and  flecked  the  darker  pool 
Below  the  point,  and  were  at  last  driven  wrinkled 
In  a  white  scarf  against  the  far  shore  alders.) 
"That  wave's  been  standing  off  this  jut  of  shore 


ROBERT  FROST  225 

Ever  since  rivers,  I  was  going  to  say, 

Were  made  in  heaven.  It  wasn't  waved  to  us." 

"It  wasn't,  yet  it  was.  If  not  to  you 
It  was  to  me — in  an  annunciation." 

"Oh,  if  you  take  it  of!  to  lady-land, 

As  'twere  the  country  of  the  Amazons 

We  men  must  see  you  to  the  confines  of 

And  leave  you  there,  ourselves  forbid  to  enter, — 

It  is  your  brook'  I  have  no  more  to  say." 

"Yes,  you  have,  too.  Go  on.  You  thought  of  something." 

"Speaking  of  contraries,  see  how  the  brook 

In  that  white  wave  runs  counter  to  itself. 

It  is  from  that  in  water  we  were  from 

Long,  long  before  we  were  from  any  creature. 

Here  we,  in  our  impatience  of  the  steps, 

Get  back  to  the  beginning  of  beginnings, 

The  stream  of  everything  that  runs  away. 

Some  say  existence  like  a  Pirouot 

And  Pirouette,  forever  in  one  place, 

Stands  still  and  dances,  but  it  runs  away, 

It  seriously,  sadly,  runs  away 

To  fill  the  abyss'  void  with  emptiness. 

It  flows  beside  us  in  this  water  brook,. 

But  it  flows  over  us.  It  flows  between  us 

To  separate  us  for  a  panic  moment. 

It  flows  between  us,  over  us,  and  with  us. 

And  it  is  time,  strength,  tone,  light,  life  and  love 

And  even  substance  lapsing  unsubstantial; 

The  universal  cataract  of  death 

That  spends  to  nothingness — and  unresisted, 

Save  by  some  strange  resistance  in  itself, 

Not  just  a  swerving,  but  a  throwing  back, 

As  if  regret  were  in  it  and  were  sacred. 

It  has  this  throwing  backward  on  itself 

So  that  the  fall  of  most  of  it  is  always 

Raising  a  little,  sending  up  a  little. 

Our  life  runs  down  in  sending  up  the  clock. 

The  brook  runs  down  in  sending  up  our  life. 

The  sun  runs  down  in  sending  up  the  brook. 

And  there  is  something  sending  up  the  sun. 

It  is  this  backward  motion  toward  the  source, 

Against  the  stream,  that  most  we  see  ourselves  in. 

The  tribute  of  the  current  to  the  source. 

It  is  from  this  in  nature  we  are  from. 

It  is  most  us." 

"Today  will  be  the  day 


226  ROBERT  FROST 

You  said  so." 

"No,  today  will  be  the  day 
You  said  the  brook  was  called  West-running  Brook." 

"Today  will  be  the  day  of  what  we  both  said." 

ONCE    BY    THE    PACIFIC 

The  shattered  water  made  a  misty  din, 
Great  waves  looked  over  others  coming  in, 
And  thought  of  doing  something  to  the  shore 
That  water  never  did  to  land  before. 
The  clouds  were  low  and  hairy  in  the  skies 
Like  locks  blown  forward  in  the  gleam  of  eyes. 
You  could  not  tell,  and  yet  it  looked  as  if 
The  sand  was  lucky  m  being  backed  by  cliff, 
The  cliff  in  being  backed  by  continent. 
It  looked  as  if  a  night  of  dark  intent 
Was  coming,  and  not  only  a  night,  an  age. 
Someone  had  better  be  prepared  for  rage. 
There  would  be  more  than  ocean  water  broken 
Before  God's  last  Put  out  the  light  was  spoken. 

;  THE    BEAR 

The  bear  puts  both  arms  around  the  tree  above  her 

And  draws  it  down  as  if  it  were  a  lover 

And  its  chokc-cherncs  lips  to  kiss  good-by, 

Then  lets  it  snap  back  upright  in  the  sky. 

Her  next  step  rocks  a  bowlder  on  the  wall 

(She's  making  her  cross-country  in  the  fall.) 

Her  great  weight  creaks  the  barbed- wire  in  its  staples 

As  she  flings  over  and  of!  down  through  the  maples, 

Leaving  on  one  wire  tooth  a  lock  of  hair. 

Such  is  the  uncaged  progress  of  the  bear. 

The  world  has  room  to  make  a  bear  feel  free; 

The  universe  seems  cramped  to  you  and  me. 

Man  acts  more  like  a  poor  bear  in  a  cage 

That  all  day  fights  a  nervous  inward  rage, 

His  mood  rejecting  all  his  mind  suggests. 

He  paces  back  and  forth  and  never  rests 

The  toe-nail  click  and  shuffle  of  his  feet, 

The  telescope  at  one  end  of  his  beat, 

And  at  the  other  end  the  microscope, 

Two  instruments  of  nearly  equal  hope, 

And  in  conjunction  giving  quite  a  spread. 

Or  if  he  rests  from  scientific  tread, 

'Tis  only  to  sit  back  and  sway  his  head 

Through  ninety  odd  degrees  of  arc,  it  seems, 

Between  two  metaphysical  extremes. 


ROBERT  FROST  227 

He  sits  back  on  his  fundamental  butt 
With  lifted  snout  and  eyes  (if  any)  shut, 
.(He  almost  looks  religious  but  he's  not), 
And  back  and  forth  he  sways  from  cheek  to  cheek, 
At  one  extreme  agreeing  with  one  Greek, 
At  the  other  agreeing  with  another  Greek 
Which  may  be  thought,  but  only  so  to  speak. 
A  baggy  figure,  equally  pathetic 
When  sedentary  and  when  peripatetic. 


SAND    DUNES 

Sea  waves  are  green  and  wet, 
But  up  from  where  they  die 
Rise  others  vaster  yet, 
And  those  are  brown  and  dry. 

They  are  the  sea  made  land 
To  come  at  the  fisher  town, 
And  bury  in  solid  sand 
The  men  she  could  not  drown. 

She  may  know  cove  and  cape, 
But  she  docs  not  know  mankind 
If  by  any  change  of  shape 
She  hopes  to  cut  off  mind. 

Men  left  her  a  ship  to  sink; 
They  can  leave  her  a  hut  as  well, 
And  be  but  more  free  to  think 
For  the  one  more  cast-off  shell. 


THE    LOVELY    SHALL    BE    CHOOSERS 

The  Voice  said,  "Hurl  her  down!" 
The  Voices,  "How  far  down?" 
"Seven  levels  of  the  world." 
"How  much  time  have  we?" 

"Take  twenty  years. 

She  would  refuse  love  safe  with  wealth  and  honor. 

The  Lovely  shall  be  choosers,  shall  they? 

Then  let  them  choose!" 

"Then  we  shall  let  her  choose?" 

"Yes,  let  her  choose. 

Take  up  the  task  beyond  her  choosing." 

Invisible  hands  crowded  on  her  shoulder 
In  readiness  to  weigh  upon  her. 


228  ROBERT  FROST 

But  she  stood  straight  still, 

In  broad  round  ear-rings,  gold  and  jet  with  pearls, 

And  broad  round  suchlike  brooch, 

Her  checks  high  colored, 

Proud  and  the  pride  of  friends. 

The  Voice  asked,  "You  can  let  her  choose?" 
"Yes,  we  can  let  her  and  still  triumph." 

"Do  it  by  joys.  And  leave  her  always  blameless. 

Be  her  first  joy  her  wedding, 

That  though  a  wedding, 

Is  yet— well,  something  they  know,  he  and  she. 

And  after  that  her  next  joy 

That  though  she  grieves,  her  grief  is  secret: 

Those  iricnds  know  nothing  of  her  grief  to  make  it  shameful. 

Her  third  joy  that  though  now  they  cannot  help  but  know, 

They  move  in  pleasure  too  far  off 

To  think  much  or  much  care. 

Give  her  a  child  at  either  knee  for  fourth  joy 

To  tell  once  and  once  only,  for  them  never  to  forget, 

How  once  she  walked  in  brightness, 

And  make  them  see  in  the  winter  firelight. 

But  give  her  friends,  for  them  she  dares  not  tell 

For  their  foregone  incredulousness. 

And  be  her  next  joy  this: 

Her  never  having  deigned  to  tell  them. 

Make  her  among  the  humblest  even 

Seem  to  them  less  than  they  are. 

Hopeless  of  being  known  for  what  she  has  been, 

Failing  of  being  loved  ior  what  she  is, 

Give  her  the  comfoit  for  her  sixth  of  knowing 

She  fails  from  strangeness  to  a  way  ot  life 

She  came  to  from  too  high  too  late  to  learn. 

Then  send  some  one  with  eye  to  see 

And  wonder  at  her  where  she  is 

And  words  to  wonder  in  her*  hearing  how  she  came  there. 

But  without  time  to  stay  and  hear  her  story. 

Be  her  last  joy  her  heart's  going  out  to  this  one 

So  that  she  almost  speaks. 

You  know  them — seven  in  all." 
"Trust  us,"  the  Voices  said. 


THE     EGG     AND     THE     MACHINE 

He  gave  the  solid  rail  a  hateful  kick. 
From  far  away  there  came  an  answering  tick; 
And  then  another  tick.  He  knew  the  code: 
His  hate  had  roused  an  engine  up  the  road. 


ROBERT  FROST 


229 


He  wished  when  he  had  had  the  track  alone 

He  had  attacked  it  with  a  club  or  stone 

And  bent  some  rail  wide  open  like  a  switch 

So  as  to  wreck  the  engine  in  the  ditch. 

Too  late,  though,  now  to  throw  it  down  the  bank; 

Its  click  was  rising  to  a  nearer  clank. 

Here  it  came  breasting  like  a  horse  in  skirts. 

(He  stood  well  back  for  fear  of  scalding  squirts.) 

Then  for  a  moment  there  was  only  size, 

Confusion,  and  a  roar  that  drowned  the  cries 

lie  raised  against  the  gods  in  the  machine. 

Then  once  again  the  sand-bank  lay  serene. 

The  traveler's  eye  picked  up  a  turtle  trail, 

Between  the  dotted  feet  a  streak  of  tail, 

And  followed  it  to  where  he  made  out  vague, 

But  certain  signs  of  buried  turtle  egg; 

And  probing  with  one  finger  not  too  rough, 

He  found  suspicious  sand,  and  sure  enough 

The  pocket  of  a  little  tuitle  mine. 

If  there  was  one  egg  m  it,  there  were  nine, 

Torpcdo-hkc,  with  shell  ot  gritty  leather 

All  packed  in  sand  to  wait  the  trump  together. 

"You'd  better  not  disturb  me  any  more," 

He  told  the  distance.  "I  am  armed  for  war. 

The  next  machine  that  has  the  power  to  pass 

Will  get  this  plasm  in  its  goggle  glass." 


STOPPING    BY    WOODS    ON    A 
SNOWY    EVENING 

Whose  woods  these  arc  I  think  I  know. 
His  house  is  in  the  village  though; 
He  will  not  see  me  stopping  here 
To  watch  his  woods  fill  up  with  snow. 

My  little  horse  must  think  it  queer 
To  stop  without  a  farmhouse  near 
Between  the  woods  and  frozen  lake 
The  darkest  evening  of  the  year. 

He  gives  his  harness  bells  a  shake 
To  ask  if  there  is  some  mistake. 
The  only  other  sound's  the  sweep 
Of  easy  wind  and  downy  flake. 

The  woods  are  lovely,  dark  and  deep, 
But  I  have  promises  to  keep, 
And  miles  to  go  before  I  sleep, 
And  miles  to  go  before  I  sleep. 


NOTHING    GOLD    CAN    STAY 

Nature's  first  green  is  gold, 
Tier  hardest  hue  to  hold. 
Her  early  leaf's  a  (lower; 
But  only  so  an  hour 
Then  leaf  subsides  to  leaf. 
So  Rdcn  sank  to  grief, 
So  dawn  goes  down  to  day. 
Nothing  gold  can  stay. 


THE    ROAD    NOT    TAKEN 

Two  roads  diverged  in  a  yellow  wood, 
And  sorry  I  could  not  travel  both 
And  be  one  traveler,  long  I  stood 
And  looked  down  one  as  far  as  I  could 
To  where  it  bent  in  the  undergrowth; 

Then  took  the  other,  as  just  as  fair, 
And  having  perhaps  the  better  claim, 
Because  it  was  grassy  and  wanted  wear; 
Though  as  for  that  the  passing  there 
Had  worn  them  rcallv  about  the  same, 


xyo  ROBERT  FROST 

And  both  that  morning  equally  lay  I  shall  be  telling  this  with  a  sigh 

In  leaves  no  step  had  trodden  black.  Somewhere  ages  and  ages  hence: 

Oh,  I  kept  the  first  for  another  day !  Two  roads  diverged  in  a  wood,  and  I— 

Yet  knowing  how  way  leads  on  to  way,  I  took  the  one  less  traveled  by, 

I  doubted  if  I  should  ever  come  back.  And  that  has  made  all  the  difference. 


A    LEAF-TREADER 

I  have  been  treading  on  leaves  all  day  until  I  am  autumn-tired. 
God  knows  all  the  color  and  form  of  leaves  I  have  trodden  on  and  mired. 
Perhaps  I  have  put  forth  too  much  strength  and  been  too  fierce  from  fear. 
I  have  safely  trodden  under  foot  the  leaves  of  another  year. 

All  summer  long  they  were  overhead  more  lifted  up  than  I; 

To  come  to  their  final  place  in  earth  they  had  to  pass  me  by. 

All  summer  long  I  thought  I  heard  them  threatening  under  their  breath, 

And  when  they  came  it  seemed  with  a  will  to  carry  me  with  them  to  death. 

They  spoke  to  the  fugitive  in  my  heart  as  if  it  were  leaves  to  leaf; 

They  tapped  at  my  eyelids  and  touched  my  lips  with  an  invitation  to  grief. 

But  it  was  no  reason  I  had  to  go  because  they  had  to  go. 

Now  up,  my  knee,  to  keep  on  top  of  another  year  of  snow. 


LOST    IN    HEAVEN 

The  clouds,  the  source  of  rain,  one  stormy  night 
Offered  an  opening  to  the  source  of  dew, 
Which  I  accepted  with  impatient  sight, 
Looking  for  my  old  sky-marks  in  the  blue. 

But  stars  were  scarce  in  that  part  of  the  sky, 
And  no  two  were  of  the  same  constellation — 
No  one  was  bright  enough  to  identify. 
So  'twas  with  not  ungrateful  consternation, 

Seeing  myself  well  lost  once  more,  I  sighed, 
"Where,  where  in  heaven  am  P  But  don't  tell  me," 
I  warned  the  clouds,  "by  opening  me  wide' 
Let's  let  my  heavenly  lostness  overwhelm  me." 


V     DESERT    PLACES 

Snow  falling  and  night  falling  fast,  oh,  fast 
In  a  field  I  looked  into  going  past, 
And  the  ground  almost  covered  smooth  in  snow, 
But  a  few  weeds  and  stubble  showing  last. 

The  woods  around  it  have  it — it  is  theirs. 
All  animals  are  smothered  in  their  lairs. 
I  am  too  absent-spirited  to  count: 
The  loneliness  includes  me  unawares. 


ROBERT  FROST 


And  lonely  as  it  is,  that  loneliness 
Will  be  more  lonely  ere  it  will  be  less, 
A  blanker  whiteness  of  benighted  snow, 
With  no  expression — nothing  to  express. 

They  cannot  scare  me  with  their  empty  spaces 
Between  stars — on  stars  void  of  human  races. 
I  have  it  in  me  so  much  nearer  home 
To  scare  myself  with  my  own  desert  places. 


TWO   TRAMPS    IN    MUD-TIME 

Out  of  the  mud  two  strangers  came 

And  caught  me  splitting  wood  in  the  yard. 

And  one  of  them  put  me  oft  my  aim 

By  hailing  cheerily  "Hit  them  hard'" 

I  knew  pretty  well  why  he  dropped  behind 

And  let  the  other  go  on  a  way. 

I  knew  pretty  well  what  he  had  in  mind: 

He  wanted  to  take  my  job  for  pay. 

Good  blocks  of  beech  it  was  I  split, 
As  large  around  as  the  chopping-block; 
And  every  piece  I  squarely  hit 
Fell  spimterless  as  a  cloven  rock. 
The  blows  that  a  life  of  self-control 
Spares  to  strike  for  the  common  good 
That  day,  giving  a  loose  to  my  soul, 
I  spent  on  the  unimportant  wood. 

The  sun  was  warm  but  the  wind  was  chill. 
You  know  how  it  is  with  an  April  day: 
When  the  sun  is  out  and  the  wind  is  still, 
You're  one  month  on  in  the  middle  of  May. 
But  if  you  so  much  as  dare  to  speak, 
A  cloud  comes  over  the  sunlit  arch, 
A  wind  comes  of!  a  frozen  peak, 
And  you're  two  months  back  in  the  middle 
of  March. 

A  bluebird  comes  tenderly  up  to  alight 

And  fronts  the  wind  to  unruffle  a  plume, 

His  song  so  pitched  as  not  to  excite 

A  single  flower  as  yet  to  bloom. 

It  is  snowing  a  flake:  and  he  half  knew 

Winter  was  only  playing  possum. 

Except  in  color  he  isn't  blue, 

But  he  wouldn't  advise  a  thing  to  blossom. 

The  water  for  which  we  may  have  to  look 
In  summertime  with  a  witching-wand, 
In  every  wheelrut's  now  a  brook, 


In  every  print  of  a  hoof  a  pond. 
Be  glad  of  water,  but  don't  forget 
The  lurking  frost  in  the  earth  beneath 
That  will  steal  forth  after  the  sun  is  set 
And  show  on  the  water  its  crystal  teeth. 

The  time  when  most  I  loved  my  task 
These  two  must  make  me  love  it  more 
By  coming  with  what  they  came  to  ask. 
You'd  think  I  never  had  felt  before 
The  weight  of  an  ax  head  poised  aloft, 
The  grip  on  earth  of  outspread  feet, 
The  life  of  muscles  rocking  soit 
And  smooth  and  moist  in  vernal  heat. 

Out  of  the  woods  two  hulking  tramps 
(From  sleeping  God  knows  where  last  night 
But  not  long  since  in  the  lumber  camps). 
They  thought  all  chopping  was   theirs  of 

right. 

Men  of  the  woods  and  lumber-jacks, 
They  judged  me  by  their  appropriate  tool. 
Except  as  a  fellow  handled  an  ax, 
They  had  no  way  of  knowing  a  fool. 

Nothing  on  either  side  was  said. 

They  knew  they  had  but  to  stay  their  stay 

And  all  their  logic  would  fill  my  head: 

As  that  I  had  no  right  to  play 

With  what  was  another  man's  work  for  gain, 

My  right  might  be  love  but  theirs  was  need, 

And  where  the  two  exist  in  twain 

Theirs  was  the  better  right— -agreed. 

But  yield  who  will  to  their  separation, 

My  object  in  life  is  to  unite 

My  avocation  and  my  vocation 

As  my  two  eyes  make  one  in  sight. 

Only  where  love  and  need  are  one, 

And  the  work  is  play  for  mortal  stakes, 

Is  the  deed  ever  really  done 

For  Heaven  and  the  future's  sakcs. 


232 


ROBERT  FROST 


DEPARTMENTAL 
OR,  MY  ANT  JERRY 

An  ant  on  the  table-cloth 
Ran  into  a  dormant  moth 
Of  many  times  her  size. 
He  showed  not  the  least  surprise. 
His  business  wasn't  with  such. 
He  gave  it  scarcely  a  touch, 
And  was  off  on  his  duty  run. 
Yet  if  he  encountered  one 
Of  the  hive's  enquiry  squad 
Whose  work  is  to  find  out  God 
And  the  nature  of  time  and  space, 
He  would  put  him  onto  the  case. 
Ants  are  a  curious  race; 
One  crossing  with  hurried  tread 
The  body  of  one  of  their  dead 
Isn't  given  a  moment's  arrest — 
Seems  not  even  impressed. 
But  he  no  doubt  reports  to  any 
With  whom  he  crosses  antennae, 
And  they  no  doubt  report 


To  the  higher  up  at  court. 
Then  word  goes  forth  in  Formic: 
"Death's  come  to  Jerry  McCormic, 
Our  selfless  forager  Jerry. 
Will  the  special  Janizary 
Whose  office  it  is  to  bury 
The  dead  of  the  commissary 
Go  bring  him  home  to  his  people. 
Lay  him  in  state  on  a  sepal. 
Wrap  him  for  shroud  in  a  petal. 
Embalm  him  with  ichor  of  nettle. 
This  is  the  word  of  your  Quee"n." 
And  presently  on  the  scene 
Appears  a  solemn  mortician; 
And  taking  formal  position 
With  feelers  calmly  atwiddle, 
Seizes  the  dead  by  the  middle, 
And  heaving  him  high  in  air, 
Carries  him  out  of  there. 
No  one  stands  round  to  stare. 
It  is  nobody  else's  affair. 

It  couldn't  be  called  ungentle. 
But  how  thoroughly  departmental. 


A     CONSIDERABLE    SPECK 

A  speck  that  would  have  been  beneath  my  sight 

On  any  but  a  paper  sheet  so  white 

Set  oft  across  what  I  had  written  there, 

And  I  had  idly  poised  my  pen  m  air 

To  stop  it  with  a  period  of  ink, 

When  something  strange  about  it  made  me  think 

This  was  no  dust  speck  by  my  breathing  blown, 

But  unmistakably  a  living  mite 

With  inclinations  it  could  call  its  own. 

It  paused  as  with  suspicion  of  my  pen, 

And  then  came  racing  wildly  on  again 

To  where  my  manuscript  was  not  yet  dry, 

Then  paused  again  and  cither  drank  or  smelt— 

With  horror,  for  again  it  turned  to  fly. 

Plainly  with  an  intelligence  I  dealt. 

It  seemed  too  tiny  to  have  room  for  feet, 

Yet  must  have  had  a  set  of  them  complete 

To  express  how  much  it  didn't  want  to  die. 

It  ran  with  terror  and  with  cunning  crept. 

It  faltered!  I  could  see  it  hesitate — 

Then  in  the  middle  of  the  open  sheet 

Cower  down  in  desperation  to  accept 

Whatever  I  accorded  it  of  fate. 

I  have  none  of  the  tenderer-than-thou 


ROBERT  FROST 


Political  collectivistic  love 

With  which  the  modern  world  is  being  swept  — 

But  this  poor  microscopic  item  now' 

Since  it  was  nothing  I  knew  evil  ofc 

I  let  it  he  there  till  I  hope  it  slept. 

I  have  a  mind  myself,  and  recognize 

Mind  where  I  meet  with  it  in  any  guise. 

Na.one  can  know  how  glad  I  am  to  find 

On  any  sheet  the  least  display  of  mind. 


L-1APPINESS     MAKES    UP     IN    HEIGHT    FOR    WHAT 
IT    LACKS    IN    LENGTH 

Oh  stormy,  stormy  world, 
The  days  you  were  not  swirled 
Around  with  mist  and  cloud, 
Or  wrapped  as  in  a  shroud, 
And  the  sun's  brilliant  lull 
Was  not  in  part  "or  all 
Obscured  from  mortal*  view, 
Were  days  so  very  few 
I  can  but  wonder  whence 
I  get  the  lasting  sense 
Of  so  much  warmth  and  light. 
If  my  mistrust  is  right 
It  may  be  altogether 
From  one  day's  perfect  weather 
When  starting  clear  at  dawn 
The  day  went  clearly  on 
To  finish  clear  at  eve. 
I  verily  believe 
My  fair  impression  may 
Be  ail  from  that  one  day 
No  shadow  crossed  but  ours, 
As  through  the  blazing  flowers 
We  went  from  house  to  wood 
For  change  of  solitude. 


COME    IN 


As  I  came  to  the  edge  of  the  woods, 
Thrush  music — hark' 
Now  if  it  was  dusk  outside, 
Inside  it  was  dark. 

Too  dark  in  the  woods  for  a  bird 
By  sleight  of  wing 
To  better  its  perch  for  the  night, 
Though  it  still  could  sing. 

The  last  of  the  light  of  the  sun 
That  had  died  in  the  west 


Still  lived  for  one  song  more 
In  a  thrush's  breast. 

Far  in  the  pillared  dark 
Thrush  music  went — 
Almost  like  a  call  to  come  in 
To  the  dark  and  lament. 

But  no,  Pwas  out  for  stars: 
I  would  not  come  in. 
I  meant  not  even  if  asked; 
And  I  hadn't  been. 


WILLIAM  ELLERY  LEONARD 


William  Ellery  Leonard 

WILLIAM  ELLERY  LEONARD  was  born  in  Plainfield,  New  Jersey,  January  25,  1876. 
He  received  his  A.M.  at  Harvard  in  1899  and  completed  his  studies  at  the 
Universities  of  Gottingen  and  Bonn.  After  traveling  for  several  years  throughout 
Europe,  he  became  a  teacher  and  has  been  professor  of  English  in  the  University  of 
Wisconsin  since  1906. 

The  Vaunt  of  Man  (1912)  is  a  characteristic  volume.  Traditional  in  form  and 
material,  it  is  anything  but  conservative  in  spirit.  Leonard's  fervor  speaks  in  the 
simplest  of  his  quatrains  and  sonnets.  This  protesting  passion  is  given  an  even  wider 
sweep  in  The  Lynching  Bee  and  Other  Poems  (1920). 

Tutankhamen  and  After  (1924)  is  an  ambitious  attempt  to  picture  the  continuity 
of  man's  life  in  three  pages,  but  in  spite  of  a  few  felicitous  lines  the  title-poem  is 
prosy.  It  was  a  grave  injustice  to  claim  this  as  Leonard's  "most  representative  vol- 
ume." That  distinction  must  be  claimed  by  Two  Lives,  which  was  privately  issued 
in  1923  and  publicly  offered  in  1925.  Reminiscent  of  Richard  Dchmel's  Zwel 
Menschent  this  chain  of  sonnets  compresses  an  intensity  m  which  the  effect  of  the 
cumulative  drama  is  far  greater  than  that  of  any  single  poem. 

The  Locomotive  God  (1927)  is  a  strange  document  written  in  autobiographical 
prose.  It  is  the  narrative  of  a  student  and  poet  who  ends  as  a  neurotic  confined  by 
an  unusual  phobia  within  a  few  blocks'  radius  of  his  home.  Disproportionate  in  its 
concern  with  trifles,  painful  as  analysis  of  fevered  imagination,  the  book  has  a  per- 
sonal interest  beyond  the  case  history;  it  is  frankly  autobiographical. 

A  Son  of  Earth  (1929)  is  composed  of  selections  from  Leonard's  previous  poetry 
with  the  exception  of  his  translations  and  Two  Lives.  It,  too,  was  arranged  auto- 
biographical ly  "with  reference  to  activities,  aims,  influences,  crises."  This  larger 
collection  suffers  the  same  defects  as  Two  Lives;  its  sincerity  is  compelling,  its  can- 
dor unreserved,  but  only  a  few  pages  could  be  offered  as  examples  of  poetry  per  se. 
A  Son  of  Eaith  contains  page  after  page  of  inversions  and  pomposities  incredibly 
preserved;  one  can  understand  the  youth  that  luxuriated  in  such  cliches  as  "golden 
fee,"  "slumbering  aeons,"  "shadowy  woodlands,"  "white  nymphs,"  "brazen  trum- 
pets," "immemorial  tides,"  but  it  is  hard  to  credit  a  maturity  that  proudly  reprints 
them.  Rhetoric  aside,  there  is  wisdom  here  and  wit,  a  malicious  sparkle  in  the  re- 
vised fables  grouped  under  "Aesop  and  Hyssop." 

Besides  his  original  poetry,  Leonard  has  published  several  volumes  of  translations 
of  Beowulf,  Empedocles  and  Lucretius. 

THE    IMAGE    OF    DELIGHT 

0  how  came  I  that  loved  stars,  moon,  and  flame, 
And  unimaginable  wind  and  sea, 

All  inner  shrines  and  temples  of  the  free, 
Legends  and  hopes  and  golden  books  of  fame; 

1  that  upon  the  mountain  carved  my  name 
With  cliffs  and  clouds  and  eagles  over  me* 


WILLIAM  ELLERY  LEONARD 


0  how  came  I  to  stoop  to  loving  thce — 

1  that  had  never  stooped  before  to  shame? 

0  'twas  not  thee!  Too  eager  of  a  white 
Far  beauty  and  a  voice  to  answer  mine, 
Myself  I  built  an  image  of  delight, 

Which  all  one  purple  day  I  deemed  divine — 
And  when  it  vanished  in  the  fiery  night, 

1  lost  not  thee,  nor  any  shape  of  thine. 

TO    THE    VICTOR 

Man's  mind  is  larger  than  his  brow  of  tears; 
This  hour  is  not  my  ail  of  time;  this  place 
My  all  of  earth;  nor  this  obscene  disgrace 
My  all  of  life;  and  thy  complacent  sneers 
Shall  not  pronounce  my  doom  to  my  compeers 
While  the  Hereafter  lights  me  in  the  face, 
And  from  the  Past,  as  from  the  mountain's  base, 
Rise,  as  I  rise,  the  long  tumultuous  cheers. 
And  who  slays  me  must  overcome  a  world: 
Heroes  at  arms,  and  virgins  who  became 
Mothers  of  children,  prophecy  and  song; 
Walls  of  old  cities  with  their  flags  unfurled; 
Peaks,  headlands,  ocean  and  its  isles  of  fame — 
And  sun  and  moon  and  all  that  made  me  strong! 


Carl  Sandburg 

CARL  (AUGUST)  SANDBURG  was  born  of  Swedish  stock  at  Galesburg,  Illinois,  Janu- 
ary 6,  1878.  His  schooling  was  haphazard;  at  thirteen  he  went  to  Work  on  a 
milk  wagon.  During  the  next  six  years  he  was,  in  rapid  succession,  porter  in  a  barber 
shop,  scene-shifter  in  a  cheap  theater,  truck-handler  in  a  brickyard,  turner-apprentice 
in  a  pottery,  dish-washer  in  Denver  and  Omaha  hotels,  harvest  hand  in  Kansas 
whcatfields.  These  tasks  equipped  him,  as  no  amount  of  learning  could  have  done, 
to  be  the  laureate  of  industrial  America.  When  war  with  Spain  was  declared  in  1898, 
Sandburg,  avid  for  fresh  adventure,  enlisted  in  Company  C,  Sixth  Illinois  Vol- 
unteers. 

On  his  return  from  the  campaign  in  Porto  Rico,  Sandburg  entered  Lombard  Col- 
lege in  Galesburg  and,  for  the  first  time,  began  to  think  in  terms  of  literature.  After 
leaving  college,  where  he  had  been  captain  of  the  basket-ball  team  as  well  as  editor- 
in-chief  of  the  college  paper,  Sandburg  did  all  manner  of  things  to  earn  a  living. 
He  was  advertising  manager  for  a  department  store  and  worked  as  district  organ- 
izer for  the  Social-Democratic  party  of  Wisconsin.  He  became  salesman,  pamphleteer, 
newspaperman. 

In  1904  Sandburg  published  the  proverbial  "slender  sheaf,"  a  tiny  pamphlet  of 
Twenty-two  poems,  uneven  in  quality,  but  strangely  like  the  work  of  the  mature 


236  CARL  SANDBURG 

Sandburg  in  feeling.  What  is  more,  these  experiments  anticipated  the  inflection  of 
the  later  poems,  with  their  spiritual  kinship  to  Henley  and  Whitman;  several  of 
these  early  experiments  (with  the  exception  of  the  rhymed  verses)  might  be  placed, 
without  seeming  incongruous,  in  the  later  collections.  The  idiom  of  Stnofc  and 
Steel  (1920)  is  more  intensified,  but  it  is  the  same  idiom  as  that  of  "Milville"  (1903), 
which  begins: 

Down  in  southern  New  Jersey  they  make  glass. 

By  day  and  by  night,  the  fires  burn  on  in  Milville  and  bid  the  sand  let  in  the  light. 

Meanwhile  the  newspaperman  was  struggling  to  keep  the  poet  alive.  Until  he 
was  thirty-six  years  old  Sandburg  was  unknown  to  the  literary  woild.  In  1914  a 
group  of  his  poems  appeared  in  Poetry  A  Magazine  of  Vet  sc;  during  the  same  year 
one  of  the  group  (the  now  famous  "Chicago")  was  awarded  the  Lcvinson  prize  of 
two  hundred  dollars.  A  little  more  than  a  year  later  his  first  real  book  was  pub- 
lished, and  Sandburg's  stature  was  apparent  to  all  who  cared  to  look. 

Chicago  Poems  (1916)  is  full  of  ferment;  it  seethes  with  loose  energy.  If  Frost 
is  an  intellectual  aristocrat,  Sandburg  might  be  termed  an  emotional  democrat.  Sand- 
burg's speech  is  simple  and  powerful;  he  uses  slang  as  freely  as  his  predecessors  used 
the  now  aichaic  tongue  of  their  times.  Never  has  the  American  vulgate  been  used 
with  such  aitistry  and  effect.  Immediately  cries  of  protest  were  heard:  Sandburg  was 
coarse  and  brutal;  his  work  ugly  and  distorted;  his  language  unrefined,  unfit  for 
poetry.  His  detractors  forgot  that  Sandburg  was  brutal  only  to  condemn  brutality; 
that  beneath  his  toughness,  he  was  one  of  the  tenclerest  of  living  poets;  that,  when 
he  used  colloquialisms  and  a  richly  metaphorical  slang,  he  was  seaiching  for  new 
poetic  values  in  "limber,  lasting,  fierce  words" — unconsciously  answering  Whitman 
who  asked,  "Do  you  suppose  the  liberties  and  brawn  of  These  States  have  to  do 
only  with  delicate  lady-words ?  With  gloved  gentleman-words?" 

Coinhus1{cts  (1918)  is  another  step  forward;  it  is  as  sweeping  as  its  forerunner 
and  more  sensitive.  The  gain  in  power  and  restraint  is  evident  in  the  very  first  poem, 
a  wide-swept  vision  of  the  prairie.  Here  is  something  of  the  surge  of  a  Norse  saga; 
Cotnhust(€is  is  keen  with  a  salty  vigor,  a  sympathy  lor  all  that  is  splendid  and  ter- 
rible in  Nature.  But  the  raw  violence  is  restrained  to  the  point  ot  half-withheld  mys- 
ticism. There  are,  in  this  volume,  dozens  of  those  delicate  perceptions  of  beauty  that 
must  astonish  those  who  think  that  Sandburg  can  write  only  a  big-fisted,  rough- 
neck sort  of  poetry.  As  Sandburg  has  sounded  some  of  the  most  jottissimo  notes  in 
modern  poetry,  he  has  also  breathed  some  of  its  softest  phrases.  "Cool  Tombs,"  one 
of  the  most  poignant  lyrics  of  our  times,  moves  with  a  low  music;  "Grass"  whispers 
as  quietly  as  the  earlier  "Fog"  stole  in  on  stealthy,  cat  feet. 

Smofe  and  Steel  (1920)  is  the  synthesis  of  its  predecessors.  In  this  collection, 
Sandburg  has  fused  mood,  accent  and  image.  Whether  the  poet  evokes  the  spirit  of 
a  jazz-band  or,  having  had  the  radiance  (the  "flash  crimson"),  prays  to  touch  life 
at  its  other  extreme,  this  volume  is  not  so  vociferous  as  it  is  assured.  Smoke-belching 
chimneys  are  here,  quarries  and  great  bowlders  of  iron-ribbed  rock;  here  are  titanic 
visions:  the  dreams  of  men  and  machinery.  And  silence  is  here — the  silence  of  sleep- 
ing tenements  and  sun-soaked  cornfields. 

Slabs  of  the  Sunburnt  West  (1923)  is  a  fresh  fusing:  here  in  quick  succession  are 
the  sardonic  invectives  of  "And  So  Today,"  the  rhapsody  of  "The  Windy  City"  (an 


CARL  SANDBURG  257 

amplification  of  the  early  "Chicago"),  and  the  panoramic  title-poem.  Although  the 
book's  chief  exhibit  is  the  amplitude  of  its  longer  poems,  there  are  a  few  brevities 
(such  as  "Upstream")  which  have  the  vigor  of  a  jubilant  cry.  Sandburg  is  still 
tempted  to  talk  at  the  top  of  his  voice,  to  bang  the  table  and  hurl  his  loudest  epi- 
thets into  the  teeth  of  his  opponents.  But  often  he  goes  to  the  other  extreme;  he  is 
likely  to  leave  his  material  soft  and  loose  instead  of  solidifying  his  emotions.  There 
are  times  when  the  poet  seems  unsure  whether  or  not  he  can  furnish  more  than  a 
clew  to  the  half-realized  wisps  of  his  imagination.  But  though  his  meaning  may  not 
always  be  clear,  there  is  no  mistaking  the  power  of  his  feeling  nor  the  curious 
cadences  of  his  music. 

Good  Morning,  America  (1928)  is  characteristically  Sandburg  at  his  best  and 
worst.  There  are  passages  which  are  hopelessly  enigmatic,  passages  which  are  only 
inflations  of  commonplace  ideas.  On  the  other  hand,  there  are  pages  which  aie  re- 
markable experiments  in  suspension,  pages  sensitive  with  a  beauty  delicately  per- 
ceived. The  thirty-eight  "Tentative  (First  Model)  Definitions  of  Poetry"  with  which 
the  volume  is  prefaced  are  footnotes  as  well  as  prologues  to  his  work  in  general,  and 
the  purely  descriptive  pieces  are  among  his  finest.  Incidentally,  the  volume  shows 
how  far  Sandburg  has  gone  in  critical  esteem  since  the  time  when  his  Chicago 
Poems  was  openly  derided,  the  title  poem  of  Good  Monnng,  America,  having  been 
read  as  a  Phi  Beta  Kappa  poem  at  Harvard.  Hcie,  too,  one  is  impressed  by  Sand- 
burg's hatred  of  war;  Sandburg  was  one  of  the  first  American  poets  to  express  the 
growing  protests  in  "A.  E.  F."  and  other  poems. 

Besides  his  poetry,  Sandburg  has  written  three  volumes  of  imaginative  and,  if 
one  can  conceive  of  such  a  tiling,  humorously  mystical  talcs  for  children:  Rootabaga 
Stoties  (1922),  Rootabaga  Pigeons  (1923)  and  Potato  Face  (1930),  the  last  being — 
so  the  poet  and  publisher  insist — tales  for  adults  of  all  ages.  A  collection  of  the 
Rootabaga  stones  was  illustrated  by  Peggy  Bacon  in  1929.  Eight  years  were  spent 
traveling  and  studying  documents  for  his  vitalized  Abraham  Lincoln'  The  Prante 
Yeats  (1926),  and  assembling  material  for  his  collection  of  native  folk-tunes  The 
American  Songbag  (1927),  a  massive  and  revealing  folio  of  words,  music,  and  ac- 
companiments to  two  hundred  and  eighty  songs,  more  than  one  hundred  of  them 
never  in  print  until  Sandburg's  car  and  notebook  gathered  them  from  pioneer  grand- 
mothers, workf-gangs,  railroad  men,  hoboes,  convicts,  cowboys,  mountain  people,  and 
others  who  sing  "because  they  must."  Another  ten  years  prepared  him  to  write 
Abiaham  Lincoln'  The  Wai  Years,  the  six  volumes  constituting  the  most  exten- 
sive modern  presentation  of  Lincoln  and  his  times. 

In  1924  the  poet  perfected  a  unique  lecture — part  recital,  part  singing  of  American 
folk-tunes,  part  "circus,"  as  he  describes  it — which  he  continued  to  give  throughout 
the  country.  Accompanied  by  his  guitar,  Sandburg  brought  new  values  to  the  read- 
ing of  poetry.  His  low-toned  footnotes  were  full  of  philosophic  asides.  Speaking  of 
realism  and  romanticism,  he  once  told  the  following  fable:  "There  was  a  man  who 
did  not  find  in  his  house  all  he  desired.  One  day  he  came  in  to  find  his  wife  work- 
ing with  a  workbasket  full  of  bright  silk  threads.  He  caught  up  a  handful.  He  held 
them  tight  for  a  moment.  Then  he  opened  his  hand.  The  threads  became  hundreds 
of  brilliant  butterflies  flying  joyfully  about  the  room.  The  man  watched  them.  Then 
he  opened  his  hand,  gathered  them  all  in,  tightened  his  hold.  They  became  silk 


238  CARL  SANDBURG 

threads;  he  returned  them  to  the  workbasket.  .  .  .  And  if  you  can  believe  that," 
Sandburg  concluded,  "you  are  a  romanticist." 

Suddenly  in  his  fifty-eighth  year  the  poet  emerged  tougher  and  more  resolute 
than  ever.  The  People,  Yes  (1936)  is  a  synthesis  of  research  and  rhapsody,  of  the 
collector's  energy  and  the  creator's  imagination.  The  work  is  a  carryall  of  folk-tales, 
catch-phrases,  tall  stories,  gossip  and  history.  With  a  new  gusto  and  an  old  reliance 
on  the  native  idiom,  Sandburg  affirms  his  faith.  Never,  except  in  Whitman,  has  the 
common  man  been  so  celebrated;  never  has  there  been  a  greater  tribute  to  the 
people's  shrewd  skepticism  and  stubborn  optimism,  their  patience  and  their  power. 
Here  are  the  people,  misled  and  misunderstood,  bewildered  and  betrayed,  but 
stronger  and  wiser  than  they  know:  "a  reservoir  of  the  human  reserves  that  shape 
history." 

TEN    DEFINITIONS     OF     POETRY 

1  Poetry  is  a  projection  across  silence  of  cadences  arranged  to  break  that  silence 

with  definite  intentions  of  echoes,  syllables,  wave  lengths. 

2  Poetry  is  the  journal  of  a  sea  animal  living  on  land,  wanting  to  fly  the  air. 

3  Poetry  is  a  series  of  explanations  of  life,  fading  off  into  horizons  too  swift  for 

explanations. 

4  Poetry  is  a  search  for  syllables  to  shoot  at  the  barriers  of  the  unknown  and  the 

unknowable. 

5  Poetry  is  a  theorem  of  a  yellow-silk  handkerchief  knotted  with  riddles,  sealed 

in  a  balloon  tied  to  the  tail  of  a  kite  flying  in  a  white  wind  against  a  blue 
sky  in  spring. 

6  Poetry  is  the  silence  and  speech  between  a  wet  struggling  root  of  a  flower  and  a 

sunlit  blossom  of  that  flower. 

7  Poetry  is  the  harnessing  of  the  paradox  of  earth  cradling  life  and  then  entomb- 

ing it. 

8  Poetry  is  a  phantom  script  telling  how  rainbows  are  made  and  why  they  go  away. 

9  Poetry  is  the  synthesis  of  hyacinths  and  biscuits. 

10  Poetry  is  the  opening  and  closing  of  a  door,  leaving  those  who  look  through  to 
guess  about  what  is  seen  during  a  moment. 

CHICAGO 

Hog  Butcher  for  the  World, 
Tool  Maker,  Stacker  of  Wheat, 

Player  with  Railroads  and  the  Nation's  Freight  Handler; 
Stormy,  husky,  brawling, 
City  of  the  Big  Shoulders: 
They  tell  me  you  are  wicked  and  I  believe  them,  for  I  have  seen  your  painted 

women  under  the  gas  lamps  luring  the  farm  boys. 
And  they  tell  me  you  are  crooked  and  I  answer:  Yes,  it  is  true  I  have  seen  the 

gunman  kill  and  go  free  to  kill  again. 
And  they  tell  me  you  are  brutal  and  my  reply  is:  On  the  faces  of  women  and 

children  I  have  seen  the  marks  of  wanton  hunger. 
And  having  answered  so  I  turn  once  more  to  those  who  sneer  at  this  my  city,  and 

I  give  them  back  the  sneer  and  say  to  them: 

Come  and  show  me  another  city  with  lifted  head  singing  so  proud  to  be  alive  and 
coarse  and  strong  and  cunning. 


CARL  SANDBURG 


239 


Flinging  magnetic  curses  amid  the  toil  of  piling  job  on  job,  here  is  a  tall  bold 

slugger  set  vivid  against  the  little  soft  cities; 

Fierce  as  a  dog  with  tongue  lapping  for  action,  cunning  as  a  savage  pitted  against 
the  wilderness, 
Bareheaded, 
Shoveling, 
Wrecking, 
Planning, 

Building,  breaking,  rebuilding. 

Under  the  smoke,  dust  all  over  his  mouth,  laughing  with  white  teeth, 
Under  the  terrible  burden  of  destiny  laughing  as  a  young  man  laughs, 
Laughing  even  as  an  ignorant  fighter  laughs  who  has  never  lost  a  battle, 
Bragging  and  laughing  that  under  his  wrist  is  the  pulse,  and  under  his  ribs  the 
heart  of  the  people, 

Laughing' 

Laughing  the  stormy,  husky,  brawling  laughter  of  Youth,  half-naked,  sweating, 
proud  to  be  Hog  Butcher,  Tool  Maker,  Stacker  of  Wheat,  Player  with  Railroads 
and  Freight  Handler  to  the  Nation. 


FOG 

The  fog  comes 
on  little  cat  feet. 
It  sits  looking 
over  harbor  and  city 
on  silent  haunches 
and  then  moves  on. 


GRASS 

Pile  the  bodies  high  at  Austcrlitz  and  Waterloo. 
Shovel  them  under  and  let  me  work — 
I  am  the  grass;  I  cover  all. 

And  pile  them  high  at  Gettysburg 

And  pile  them  high  at  Ypres  and  Verdun. 

Shovel  them  under  and  let  me  work. 

Two  years,  ten  years,  and  passengers  ask  the  conductor: 

What  place  is  tms? 

Wheie  are  we  now? 

I  am  the  grass. 
Let  me  work. 


COOL    TOMBS 

When  Abraham  Lincoln  was  shoveled  into  the  tombs,  he  forgot  the  copperheads 
and  the  assassin  ...  in  the  dust,  in  the  cool  tombs. 

And  Ulysses  Grant  lost  all  thought  of  con  men  and  Wall  Street,  cash  and  collateral 
turned  ashes  ...  in  the  dust,  in  the  cool  tombs. 


240  CARL  SANDBURG 

Pocahontas'  body,  lovely  as  a  poplar,  sweet  as  a  red  haw  in  November  or  a  pawpaw 
in  May,  did  she  wonder?  does  she  remember?  ...  in  the  dust,  in  the  cool 
tombs  ? 

Take  any  strectful  of  people  buying  clothes  and  groceries,  cheering  a  hero  or  throw- 
ing confetti  and  blowing  tin  horns  .  .  .  tell  me  if  the  lovers  are  losers  .  .  . 
tell  me  if  any  get  more  than  the  lovers  ...  in  the  dust  ...  in  the  cool  tombs. 


NOCTURNE     IN     A     DESERTED    BRICKYARD 

Stuff  of  the  moon 

Runs  on  the  lapping  sand 

Out  to  the  longest  shadows. 

Under  the  curving  willows, 

And  round  the  creep  of  the  wave  line, 

Fluxions  of  yellow  and  dusk  on  the  waters 

Make  a  wide  dreaming  pansy  of  an  old  pond  in  the  night. 


LIMITED 

I  am  riding  on  a  limited  express,  one  of  the  crack  trains  of  the  nation. 

Hurtling  across  the  prairie  into  blue  haze  and  dark  air  go  fifteen  all-stccl  coaches 

holding  a  thousand  people. 
(All  the  coaches  shall  be  scrap  and  rust  and  all  the  men  and  women  laughing  in 

the  diners  and  sleepers  shall  pass  to  ashes.) 
I  ask  a  man  in  the  smoker  where  he  is  going  and  he  answers:  "Omaha." 


FOUR  PRELUDES  ON  PLAYTHINGS  OF  THE  WIND 

"The  Past  Is  a  Bucket  of  Ashes" 

i 

The  woman  named  Tomorrow 
sits  with  a  hairpin  in  her  teeth 
and  takes  her  time 

and  docs  her  hair  the  way  she  wants  it 
and  fastens  at  last  the  last  braid  and  coil 
and  puts  the  hairpin  where  it  belongs 
and  turns  and  drawls:  Well,  what  of  it? 
My  grandmother,  Yesterday,  is  gone. 
What  of  it?  Let  the  dead  be  dead. 

2 

The  doors  were  cedar 
and  the  panel  strips  of  gold 
and  the  girls  were  golden  girls 
.  and  the  panels  read  and  the  girls  chanted: 
We  are  the  greatest  city, 
and  the  greatest  nation: 
nothing  like  us  ever  was. 


CARL  SANDBURG  241 

The  doors  are  twisted  on  broken  hinges, 
Sheets  of  ram  swish  through  on  the  wind 

where  the  golden  girls  ran  and  the  panels  read: 

We  are  the  greatest  city, 

the  greatest  nation, 

nothing  like  us  ever  was. 

3 

It  has  happened  before. 

Strong  men  put  up  a  city  and  got 

a  nation  together, 

And  paid  singers  to  sing  and  women 
to  warble:  We  arc  the  greatest  city, 
the  greatest  nation, 
nothing  like  us  ever  was. 

And  while  the  singers  sang 
and  the  strong  men  listened 
and  paid  the  singers  well, 

there  were  rats  and  lizards  who  listened 

.  .  .  and  the  only  listeners  left  now 

...  are  ...  the  rats  .  .  .  and  the  lizards. 

And  there  are  black  crows 

crying,  "Caw,  caw," 

bringing  mud  and  sticks 

building  a  nest 

over  the  words  carved 

on  the  doors  where  the  panels  were  cedar 

and  the  strips  on  the  panels  were  gold 

and  the  golden  girls  came  singing: 
We  are  the  greatest  city, 
the  greatest  nation: 
nothing  like  us  ever  was. 

The  only  singers  now  are  crows  crying,  "Caw,  caw," 

And  the  sheets  of  rain  whine  in  the  wind  and  doorways. 

And  the  only  listeners  now  are  ...  the  rats  .  .  .  and  the  li/ards. 

4 

The  feet  of  the  rats 
scribble  on  the  doorsills; 
the  hieroglyphs  of  the  rat  footprints 
chatter  the  pedigrees  of  the  rats 
and  babble  of  the  blood 
and  gabble  of  the  breed 

of  the  grandfathers  and  the  great-grandfathers 
of  the  rats. 

And  the  wind  shifts 

and  the  dust  on  a  doorsill  shifts 

and  even  the  writing  of  the  rat  footprints 

tells  us  nothing,  nothing  at  all 


242 


CARL  SANDBURG 


about  the  greatest  city,  the  greatest  nation 

where  the  strong  men  listened 

and  the  women  warbled:  Nothing  like  us  ever  was. 


A.   E.   F. 

There  will  be  a  rusty  gun  on  the  wall,  sweetheart, 

The  rifle  grooves  curling  with  flakes  of  rust. 

A  spider  will  make  a  silver  string  nest  in  the  darkest,  warmest  corner  of  it. 

The  trigger  and  the  range-finder,  they  too  will  be  rusty. 

And  no  hands  will  polish  the  gun,  and  it  will  hang  on  the  wall. 

Forefingers  and  thumbs  will  point  absently  and  casually  toward  it. 

It  will  be  spoken  among  half-forgotten,  wished-to-be-forgotten  things. 

They  will  tell  the  spider:  Go  on,  you're  doing  good  work. 


PRAYERS    OF    STEEL 

Lay  me  on  an  anvil,  O  God. 

Beat  me  and  hammer  me  into  a  crowbar. 

Let  me  pry  loose  old  walls; 

Let  me  lift  and  loosen  old  foundations. 

Lay  me  on  an  anvil,  O  God. 

Beat  me  and  hammer  me  into  a  steel  spike. 

Drive  me  into  the  girders  that  hold  a  skyscraper  together. 

Take  red-hot  rivets  and  fasten  me  into  the  central  girders. 

Let  me  be  the  gieat  nail  holding  a  skyscraper  through  blue  nights  into  white  stars. 


JAZZ    FANTASIA 

Drum  on  your  drums,  batter  on  your  banjos,  sob  on  the  long  cool  winding  saxo- 
phones. Go  to  it,  O  jazzmen. 

Sling  your  knuckles  on  the  bottoms  of  the  happy  tin  pans,  let  your  trombones  ooze, 
and  go  husha-husha-hush  with  the  slippery  sandpaper. 

Moan  like  an  autumn  wind  high  in  the  lonesome  treetops,  moan  soft  like  you 
wanted  somebody  terrible,  cry  like  a  racing  car  slipping  away  from  a  motor- 
cycle-cop, bang-bang'  you  jazzmen,  bang  altogether  drums,  traps,  banjos,  horns, 
tin  cans — make  two  people  fight  on  the  top  of  a  stairway  and  scratch  each 
other's  eyes  in  a  clinch  tumbling  down  the  stairs. 

Can  the  rough  stuff  .  .  .  Now  a  Mississippi  steamboat  pushes  up  the  night  river 
with  a  hoo-hoo-hoo-oo  .  .  .  and  the  green  lanterns  calling  to  the  high  soft 
stars  ...  a  red  moon  rides  on  the  humps  of  the  low  river  hills.  ...  Go  to 
it,  O  jazzmen. 


BLUE     ISLAND     INTERSECTION 

Six  street-ends  come  together  here. 

They  feed  people  and  wagons  into  the  center. 


CARL  SANDBURG 


In  and  out  all  day  horses  >vith  thoughts  of  nose-bags, 
Men  with  shovels,  women  with  baskets  and  baby  buggies. 
Six  ends  of  streets  and  no  sleep  for  them  all  day. 
The  people  and  wagons  come  and  go,  out  and  in. 
Triangles  of  banks  and  drug  stores  watch. 
The  policemen  whistle,  the  trolley  cars  bump: 
Wheels,  wheels,  feet,  feet,  all  day. 

In  the  false  dawn  where  the  chickens  bhnk 

And  the  east  shakes  a  lazy  baby  toe  at  tomorrow, 

And  the  east  fixes  a  pink  half-eye  this  way, 

In  the  time  when  only  one  milk  wagon  crosses 

These  three  streets,  these  six  street-ends 

It  is  the  sleep  time  and  they  rest. 

The  triangle  banks  and  drug  stores  rest. 

The  policeman  is  gone,  his  star  and  gun  sleep. 

The  owl  car  blutters  along  in  a  sleep-walk. 

FROM  "SMOKE  AND  STEEL" 

Smoke  of  the  fields  in  spring  is  one, 

Smoke  of  the  leaves  in  autumn  another. 

Smoke  of  a  steel-mill  roof  or  a  battleship  funnel, 

They  all  go  up  in  a  line  with  a  smokestack, 

Or  they  twist  ...  in  the  slow  twist  .  .  .  ot  the  wind. 

If  the  north  wind  comes  they  run  to  the  south. 
If  the  west  wind  comes  they  run  to  the  cast. 

By  this  sign 

all  smokes 

know  each  other. 

Smoke  of  the  fields  in  spring  and  leaves  in  autumn. 
Smoke  of  the  finished  steel,  chilled  and  blue, 
By  the  oath  of  work  they  swear:  "I  know  you." 

Hunted  and  hissed  from  the  center 
Deep  down  long  ago  when  God  made  us  over, 
Deep  down  are  the  cinders  we  came  from — 
You  and  I  and  our  heads  of  smoke. 


Some  of  the  smokes  God  dropped  on  the  job 
Cross  on  the  sky  and  count  our  years 
And  sing  in  the  secrets  of  our  numbers; 
Sing  their  dawns  and  sing  their  evenings, 
Sing  an  old  log-fire  song: 

You  may  put  the  damper  up, 

You  may  put  the  damper  down, 

The  smoke  goes  up  the  chimney  just  the  same. 


CARL  SANDBURG 


Smoke  of  a  city  sunset  skyline, 
Smoke  of  a  country  dusk  horizon  — 

They  cross  on  the  sky  and  count  our  years. 


Smoke  of  a  brick-red  dust 

Winds  on  a  spiral 

Out  of  the  stacks 

For  a  hidden  and  glimpsing  moon. 
This,  said  the  bar-iron  shed  to  tht  blooming  mill, 
This  is  the  slang  of  coal  and  steel. 
The  day-gang  hands  it  to  the  night-gang, 
The  night-gang  hands  it  back. 

Stammer  at  the  slang  of  this  — 
Let  us  understand  half  of  it. 

In  the  rolling  mills  and  sheet  mills, 

In  the  harr  and  boom  of  the  blast  fires, 

The  smoke  changes  its  shadow 

And  men  change  their  shadow; 

A  nigger,  a  wop,  a  bohunk  changes. 

A  bar  of  steel  —  it  is  only 

Smoke  at  the  heart  of  it,  smoke  and  the  blood  of  a  man. 
A  runner  of  fire  ran  in  it,  ran  out,  ran  somewhere  else, 
And  left  smoke  and  the  blood  of  a  man 
And  the  finished  steel,  chilled  and  blue. 

So  fire  runs  in,  runs  out,  runs  somewhere  else  again, 
And  the  bar  of  steel  is  a  gun,  a  wheel,  a  nail,  a  shovel, 
A  rudder  under  the  sea,  a  steering-gear  in  the  sky; 
And  always  dark  in  the  heart  and  through  it, 

Smoke  and  the  blood  of  a  man. 
Pittsburgh,  Youngstown,  Gary,  they  make  their  steel  with  men. 

In  the  blood  of  men  and  the  ink  of  chimneys 

The  smoke  nights  write  their  oaths: 

Smoke  into  steel  and  blood  into  steel; 

Homestead,  Braddock,  Birmingham,  they  make  their  steel  with  men. 

Smoke  and  blood  is  the  mix  of  steel.  .  .  . 


LOSERS 

If  I  should  pass  the  tomb  of  Jonah 

I  would*  stop  there  and  sit  for  a  while; 

Because  I  was  swallowed  one  time  deep  in  the  dark 

And  came  out  alive  after  all. 

If  I  pass  the  burial  spot  of  Nero 

I  shall  soy  to  the  wind,  "Well,  well!"— 


CARL  SANDBURG  245 

I  who  have  fiddled  in  a  world  on  fire, 

I  who  have  done  so  many  stunts  not  worth  the  doing. 

I  am  looking  for  the  grave  of  Smbad  too. 
I  want  to  shake  his  ghost-hand  and  say, 
"Neither  of  us  died  very  early,  did  we?" 

And  the  last  sleeping-place  of  Nebuchadnezzar — 
When  I  arrive  there  I  shall  tell  the  wind: 
"You  ate  grass;  I  have  eaten  crow — 
Who  is  better  off  now  or  next  year?" 

Jack  Cade,  John  Brown,  Jesse  James, 

There  too  I  could  sit  down  and  stop  for  a  while. 

I  think  I  could  tell  their  headstones: 

"God,  let  me  remember  all  good  losers." 

I  could  ask  people  to  throw  ashes  on  their  heads 
In  the  name  of  that  sergeant  at  Belleau  Woods, 
Walking  into  the  drumfires,  calling  his  men, 
"Come  on,  you  .  .  .  Do  you  want  to  live  forever?" 


WIND    SONG 

Long  ago  I  learned  how  to  sleep, 

In  an  old  apple  orchard  where  the  wind  swept  by  counting  its  money  and  throwing 

it  away, 
In  a  wind-gaunt  orchard  where  the  limbs  forked  out  and  listened  or  never  listened 

at  all, 
In  a  passel  of  trees  where  the  branches  trapped  the  wind  into  whistling,  "Who,  who 

are  you?" 
I  slept  with  my  head  in  an  elbow  on  a  summer  afternoon  and  there  I  took  a  sleep 

lesson. 
There  I  went  away  saying:  I  know  why  they  sleep,  I  know  how  they  trap  the  tricky 

winds. 
Long  ago  I  learned  how  to  listen  to  the  singing  wind  and  how  to  forget  and  how 

to  hear  the  deep  whine, 

Slapping  and  lapsing  under  the  day  blue  and  the  night  stars: 
Who,  who  are  you? 

Who  can  ever  forget 
listening  to  the  wind  go  by 
counting  its  money 
and  throwing  it  away? 


PRIMER    LESSON 

Look  out  how  you  use  proud  words. 

When  you  let  proud  words  go,  it  is  not  easy  to  call  them  back. 

They  wear  long  boots,  hard  boots;  they  walk  off  proud;  they  can't  hear  you  calling — 

Look  out  how  you  use  proud  words. 


246  CARL  SANDBURG 

BROKEN-FACE    GARGOYLES 

All  I  can  give  you  is  broken-face  gargoyles. 

It  is  too  early  to  sing  and  dance  at  funerals, 

Though  I  can  whisper  to  you  I  am  looking  for  an  undertaker  humming  a  lullaby 

and  throwing  his  feet  m  a  swift  and  mystic  buck-and-wing,  now  you  see  it  and 

now  you  don't. 

Fish  to  swim  a  pool  in  your  garden  flashing  a  speckled  silver, 

A  basket  of  wine-saps  filling  your  room  with  flame-dark  for  your  eyes  and  the  tang 

of  valley  orchards  for  your  nose, 
Such  a  beautiful  pail  of  fish,  such  a  beautiful  peck  of  apples,  I  cannot  bring  you 

now. 
It  is  too  early  and  I  am  not  footloose  yet. 

I  shall  come  in  the  night  when  I  come  with  a  hammer  and  saw. 

I  shall  come  near  your  window,  where  you  look  out  when  your  eyes  open  in  the 

morning, 
And  there  I  shall  slam  together  bird-houses  and  bird-baths  for  wing-loose  wrens 

and  hummers  to  live  in,  birds  with  yellow  wing  tips  to  blur  and  buzz  soft  all 

summer. 

So  I  shall  make  little  fool  homes  with  doors,  always  open  doors  for  all  and  each  to 

run  away  when  they  want  to. 

I  shall  come  just  like  that  even  though  now  it  is  early  and  I  am  not  yet  footloose, 
Even  though  I  am  still  looking  foA  an  undertaker  with  a  raw,  wind-bitten  face  and 

a  dance  in  his  feet. 
I  make  a  date  with  you  (put  it  down)  for  six  o'clock  in  the  evening  a  thousand 

years  from  now. 

All  I  can  give  you  now  is  broken-face  gargoyles. 

All  I  can  give  you  now  is  a  double  gorilla  head  with  two  fish  mouths  and  four  eagle 
eyes  hooked  on  a  street  wall,  spouting  water  and  looking  two  ways  to  the  ends 
of  the  street  for  the  new  people,  the  young  strangers,  coming,  coming,  always 
coming. 

It  is  early. 

I  shall  yet  be  footloose. 


FLASH    CRI MSON 

I  shall  cry  God  to  give  me  a  broken  foot. 
I  shall  ask  for  a  scar  and  a  slashed  nose. 
I  shall  take  the  last  and  the  worst. 

I  shall  be  eaten  by  gray  creepers  in  a  bunkhouse  where  no  runners  of  the  sun  come 
and  no  dogs  live. 

And  yet — of  all  "and  yets"  this  is  the  bronze  strongest — 


CARL  SANDBURG  247 

I  shall  keep  one  thing  better  than  all  else;  there  is  the  blue  steel  of  a  great  star  ot 
early  evening  in  it;  it  lives  longer  than  a  broken  foot  or  any  scar. 

The  broken  foot  goes  to  a  hole  dug  with  a  shovel  or  the  bone  of  a  nose  may  whiten 
on  a  hilltop — and  yet — "and  yet" — 

There  is  one  crimson  pinch  of  ashes  left  after  all;  and  none  of  the  shifting  winds 
that  whip  the  grass  and  none  of  the  pounding  rains  that  beat  the  dust  know 
how  to  touch  or  find  the  flash  of  this  crimson. 

I  cry  to  God  to  give  me  a  broken  foot,  a  scar,  or  a  lousy  death. 

I  who  have  seen  the  flash  of  this  crimson,  I  ask  God  for  the  last  and  worst. 


EARLY    LYNCHING 

Two  Christs  were  at  Golgotha. 

One  took  the  vinegar,  another  looked  on. 

One  was  on  the  cross,  another  in  the  mob. 

One  had  the  nails  in  his  hands,  another  the  stiff  fingers  holding  a  hammer  driving 

nails. 
There  were  many  more  Christs  at  Golgotha,  many  more  thief  pals,  many  many 

more  in  the  mob  howling  the  Judean  equivalent  of  "Kill  Him'  Kill  Him!" 
The  Christ  they  killed,  the  Christ  they  didn't  kill,  those  were  the  two  at  Golgotha. 

Pity,  pity,  the  bones  of  these  broken  ankles. 
Pity,  pity,  the  slimp  of  these  broken  wrists 
The  mother's  arms  are  strong  to  the  last. 
She  holds  him  and  counts  the  heart  drips. 

The  smell  of  the  slums  was  on  him, 

Wrongs  of  the  slums  lit  his  eyes. 

Songs  of  the  slums  wove  in  his  voice 

The  haters  of  the  slums  hated  his  slum  heart. 

The  leaves  of  a  mountain  tree, 

Leaves  with  a  spinning  star  shook  in  them, 

Rocks  with  a  song  of  water,  water,  over  them, 

Hawks  with  an  eye  for  death  any  time,  any  time, 

The  smell  and  the  sway  of  these  were  on  his  sleeves,  were  in  his  nostrils,  his  words. 

The  slum  man  they  killed,  the  mountain  man  lives  on. 


PRECIOUS    MOMENTS 

Bright  vocabularies  are  transient  as  rainbows. 
Speech  requires  blood  and  air  to  make  it. 
Before  the  word  comes  off  the  end  of  the  tongue, 
While  the  diaphragms  of  flesh  negotiate  the  word, 
In  the  moment  of  doom  when  the  word  forms 
It  is  born,  alive,  registering  an  imprint — 


248  CARL  SANDBURG 

Afterward  it  is  a  mummy,  a  dry  fact,  done  and  gone, 
The  warning  holds  yet:  Speak  now  or  forever  hold  your  peace. 
Ecce  homo  had  meanings:  Behold  the  man!  Look  at  him! 
Dying  he  lives  and  speaks! 


MOIST    MOON    PEOPLE 

The  moon  is  able  to  command  the  valley  tonight. 

The  green  mist  shall  go  a-roammg,  the  white  river  shall  go  a-roaming. 

Yet  the  moon  shall  be  commanding,  the  moon  shall  take  a  high  stand  on  the  sky, 

When  the  cats  crept  up  the  gullies, 

And  the  goats  fed  at  the  rim  a-laughing, 

When  the  spiders  swept  their  rooms  in  the  burr  oaks, 

And  the  katydids  first  searched  for  this  year's  accordions, 

And  the  crickets  began  a-looking  for  last  year's  concertinas — 

I  was  there,  I  saw  that  hour,  I  know  God  had  grand  intentions  about  it. 
If  not,  why  did  the  moon  command  the  valley,  the  green  mist  and  white  river  gt 
a-roaming,  and  the  moon  by  itself  take  so  high  a  stand  on  the  sky? 

If  God  and  I  alone  saw  it,  the  show  was  worth  putting  on, 

Yet  I  remember  others  were  there,  Amos  and  Priscilla,  Axel  and  Hulda,  Hank  and 

Jo,  Big  Charley  and  Little  Mornmgstar. 
They  were  all  there;  the  clock  ticks  spoke  with  castanet  clicks. 


BUNDLES 

I  have  thought  of  beaches,  fields, 
Tears,  laughter. 

I  have  thought  of  homes  put  up — 
And  blown  away. 

I  have  thought  of  meetings  and  for 
Every  meeting  a  good-by. 

I  have  thought  of  stars  going  alone, 
Orioles  in  pairs,  sunsets  in  blundering 
Wistful  deaths. 

I  have  wanted  to  let  go  and  cross  over 
To  a  next  star,  a  last  star. 

I  have  asked  to  be  left  a  few  tears 
And  some  laughter. 


UPSTREAM 

The  strong  men  keep  coming  on, 

They  go  down  shot,  hanged,  sick,  broken. 


CARL  SANDBURG 


249 


They  live  on  fighting,  singing,  lucky  as  plungers. 

The  strong  mothers  pulling  them  on  ... 

The  strong  mothers  pulling  them  from  a  dark  sea,  a  great  prairie,  a  long  mountain. 

Call  hallelujah,  call  amen,  call  deep  thanks. 

The  strong  men  keep  comfng  on. 


SUNSETS 


There  are  sunsets  who  whisper  a  good-by. 
Ir  is  a  short  dusk  and  a  way  for  stars. 
Prairie  and  sea  rim  they  go  level  and  even, 
And  the  sleep  is  easy. 


There  are  sunsets  who  dance  good-by. 
They  fling  scarves  half  to  the  arc, 
To  the  aic  then  and  ovci  the  arc 
Ribbons  at  the  cars,  sashes  at  the  hips, 
Dancing,  dancing  good-by.  And  here  sleep 
Tosses  a  little  with  dreams. 


ELEPHANTS    ARE    DIFFERENT    TO    D  I  F  I«  E  R  h  N  T    PEOPLE 

Wilson  and  Pilcer  and  Snack  stood  before  the  zoo  elephant. 

Wilson  said,  "What  is  its  name?  Is  it  from  Asia  or  Africa?  Who  feeds  it?  Is  it 
a  he  or  a  she5  How  old  is  it?  Do  they  have  twins?  I  low  much  does  it  cost  to  feed? 
I  low  much  does  it  weigh?  II  it  dies  how  much  will  another  one  cost?  If  it  dies  what 
will  they  use  the  bones,  the  fat,  and  the  hide  for?  What  use  is  it  besides  to  look  at?" 

Pilcer  didn't  have  any  questions;  he  was  murmuring  to  himself,  "It's  a  house  by 
itself,  walls  and  windows,  the  ears  came  from  tall  cornfields,  by  (Joel;  the  architect 
of  those  legs  was  a  workman,  by  God;  he  stands  like  a  bridge  out  across  deep  water; 
the  face  is  sad  and  the  eyes  are  kind;  I  know  elephants  arc  good  to  babies." 

Snack  looked  up  and  down  and  at  last  said  to  himself,  "He's  a  lough  son-of-a- 
gun  outside  and  I'll  bet  he's  got  a  strong  heart,  Til  bet  he's  strong  as  a  copper- 
riveted  boiler  inside." 

They  didn't  put  up  any  arguments. 

They  didn't  throw  anything  in  each  other's  faces. 

Three  men  saw  the  elephant  three  ways 

And  let  it  go  at  that. 

They  didn't  spoil  a  sunny  Sunday  afternoon; 

"Sunday  comes  only  once  a  week,"  they  told  each  other. 


FOR  YOU 

The  peace  of  great  doors  be  for  you. 
Wait  at  the  knobs,  at  the  panel  oblongs; 
Wait  for  the  great  hinges. 

The  peace  of  great  churches  be  for  you, 
Where  the  players  of  loft  pipe-organs 
Practice  old  lovely  fragments,  alone. 

The  peace  of  great  books  be  for  you, 
Stains  of  pressed  clover  leaves  on  pages, 
Bleach  of  the  light  of  years  held  in  leather. 

The  peace  of  great  prairies  be  for  you. 
Listen  among  windplayers  in  cornfields, 
The  wind  learning  over  its  oldest  music. 


The  peace  of  great  seas  be  for  you. 
Wait  on  a  hook  of  land,  a  rock  footing 
For  you,  wait  in  the  salt  wash. 

The  peace  of  great  mountains  be  for  you, 
The  sleep  and  the  eyesight  of  eagles, 
Sheet  mist  shadows  and  the  long  look  across 

The  peace  of  great  hearts  be  for  you, 
Valves  of  the  blood  of  the  sun, 
Pumps  of  the  strongest  wants  we  cry. 

The  peace  of  great  silhouettes  be  for  you, 
Shadow  dancers  alive  in  your  blood  now, 
Alive  and  crying,  "Let  us  out,  let  us  out." 


250  CARL  SANDBURG 

The  peace  of  great  changes  be  for  you.  The  peace  of  great  ghosts  be  for  you, 

Whispers,  oh  beginners  in  the  hills.  Phantoms  of  night-gray  eyes,  ready  to  go 

Tumble,  oh  cubs — tomorrow  belongs  to  you.     To  the  fog-star  dumps,  to  the  fire-white 

The  peace  of  great  loves  be  for  you. 

Ram,  soak  these  roots;  wind,  shatter  the  dry  Yes,  the  peace  of  great  phantoms  be  for  you, 

rot.  Phantom  iron  men,  mothers  of  bronze, 

Bars  of  sunlight,  grips  of  the  earth;  hug  these.  '  Keepers  of  the  lean  clean  breeds. 

THEY    HAVE    YARNS 

(from  "The  People,  Yes") 

They  have  yarns 

Of  a  skyscraper  so  tall  they  had  to  put  hinges 
On  the  two  top  stones  so  to  let  the  moon  go  by, 
Of  one  corn  crop  in  Missouri  when  the  roots      "  . 
Went  so  deep  and  drew  off  so  much  water 
The  Mississippi  riverbed  that  year  was  dry, 
Of  pancakes  so  thm  they  had  only  one  side, 

Of  "a  fog  so  thick  we  shingled  the  barn  and  six  feet  out  on  the  fog," 
Of  Pecos  Pete  straddling  a  cyclone  in  Texas  and  riding  it  to  the  west  coast  where 

"it  rained  out  under  him," 
Of  the  man  who  drove  a  swarm  of  bees  across  the  Rocky  Mountains  and  the  Desert 

"and  didn't  lose  a  bee," 
Of  a  mountain  railroad  curve  where  the  engineer  in  his  cab  can  touch  the  caboose 

and  spit  in  the  conductor's  eye, 
Of  the  boy  who  climbed  a  cornstalk  growing  so  fast  he  would  have  starved  to  death 

if  they  hadn't  shot  biscuits  up  to  him, 
Of  the  old  man's  whiskers:  "When  the  wind  was  with  him  his  whiskers  arrived 

a  day  before  he  did," 
Of  the  hen  laying  a  square  egg  and  cackling,  "Ouch'"  and  of  hens  laying  eggs 

with  the  dates  printed  on  them, 

Of  the  ship  captain's  shadow:  it  froze  to  the  deck  one  cold  winter  night, 
Of  mutineers  on  that  same  ship  put  to  chipping  rust  with  rubber  hammers, 
Of  the  sheep  counter  who  was  fast  and  accurate:  "I  just  count  their  feet  and  divide 

by  four," 

Of  the  man  so  tall  he  must  climb  a  ladder  to  shave  himself, 
Of  the  runt  so  teeny-weeny  it  takes  two  men  and  a  boy  to  see  him, 
Of  mosquitoes:  one  can  kill  a  dog,  two  of  them  a  man, 
Of  a  cyclone  that  sucked  cookstoves  out  of  the  kitchen,  up  the  chimney  flue,  and 

on  to  the  next  town, 
Of  the  same  cyclone  picking  up  wagon-tracks  in  Nebraska  and  dropping  them  over 

in  the  Dakotas, 
Of  the  hook-and-eye  snake  unlocking  itself  into  forty  pieces,  each  piece  two  inches 

long,  then  in  nine  seconds  flat  snapping  itself  together  again, 
Of  the  watch  swallowed  by  the  cow — when  they  butchered  her  a  year  later  the 

watch  was  running  and  had  the  correct  time, 
Of  horned  snakes,  hoop  snakes  that  roll  themselves  where  they  want  to  go,  and 

rattlesnakes  carrying  bells  instead  of  rattles  on  their  tails, 
Of  the  herd  of  cattle  in  California  getting  lost  in  a  giant  redwood  tree  that  had 

hollowed  out, 


CARL  SANDBURG  251 

Of  the  man  who  killed  a  snake  by  putting  its  tail  in  its  mouth  so  it  swallowed  itself, 
Of  railroad  trains  whizzing  along  so  fast  they  reach  the  station  before  the  whistle, 
Of  pigs  so  thin  the  farmer  had  to  tie  knots  in  their  tails  to  keep  them  from  crawling 

through  the  cracks  in  their  pens, 

Of  Paul  Bunyan's  big  blue  ox,  Babe,  measuring  between  the  eyes  forty-two  ax- 
handles  and  a  plug  of  Star  tobacco  exactly, 

Of  John  Henry's  hammer  and  the  curve  of  its  swing  and  his  singing  of  it  as  "a 
rainbow  round  my  shoulder." 

"Do  tell!" 
"I  want  to  know!" 
"You  don't  say  so'" 
"For  the  land's  sake'" 
"Gosh  all  fish-hooks'" 
"Tell  me  some  more. 

I  don't  believe  a  word  you  say 

but  I  love  to  listen 

to  your  sweet  harmonica 

to  your  chin-music. 

Your  fish  stories  hang  together 

when  they're  just  a  pack  ot  lies: 

you  ought  to  have  a  leather  medal: 

you  ought  to  have  a  statue 

carved  of  butter:  you  deserve 

a  large  bouquet  of  turnips." 

"Yessir,"  the  traveler  drawled, 
"Away  out  there  in  the  petrified  forest 
everything  goes  on  the  same  as  usual. 
The  petrified  birds  sit  in  their  petrified  nests 
and  hatch  their  petrified  young  from  petrified  eggs." 

A  high  pressure  salesman  jumped  off  the  Brooklyn  Bridge  and  was  saved  by  a 
policeman.  But  it  didn't  take  him  long  to  sell  the  idea  to  the  policeman.  So 
together  they  jumped  off  the  bridge. 

One  of  the  oil  men  in  heaven  started  a  rumor  of  a  gusher  down  in  hell  All  the 
other  oil  men  left  in  a  hurry  for  hell.  As  he  gets  to  thinking  about  the  rumor 
he  had  started  he  says  to  himself  there  might  be  something  in  it  after  all.  So  he 
leaves  for  hell  in  a  hurry. 

"The  number  42  will  win  this  raffle,  that's  my  number."  And  when  he  won  they 
asked  him  whether  he  guessed  the  number  or  had  a  system.  He  said  he  had 
a  system,  "I  took  up  the  old  family  album  and  there  on  page  7  was  my  grand- 
father and  grandmother  both  on  page  7.  I  said  to  myself  this  is  easy  for  7 
times  7  is  the  number  that  will  win  and  7  times  7  is  42." 

Once  a  shipwrecked  sailor  caught  hold  of  a  stateroom  door  and  floated  for  hours 
till  friendly  hands  from  out  of  the  darkness  threw  him  a  rope.  And  he  called 
across  the  night,  "What  country  is  this?"  and  hearing  voices  answer,  "New 
Jersey,"  he  took  a  fresh  hold  on  the  floating  stateroom  door  and  called  back 
half-weanly,  "I  guess  I'll  float  a  little  farther." 


252  CARL  SANDBURG 

An  Ohio  man  bundled  up  the  tin  roof  of  a  summer  kitchen  and  sent  it  to  a  motor 
car  maker  with  a  complaint  of  his  car  not  giving  service.  In  three  weeks  a 
new  car  arrived  for  him  and  a  letter:  "We  regret  delay  in  shipment  but  your 
car  was  received  in  a  very  bad  order." 

A  Dakota  cousin  of  this  Ohio  man  sent  six  years  of  tin  can  accumulations  to  the 
same  works,  asking  them  to  overhaul  his  car.  Two  weeks  later  came  a  rebuilt 
car,  five  old  tin  cans,  and  a  letter:  "We  are  also  forwarding  you  five  parts  not 
necessary  m  our  new  model." 

Thus  fantasies  heard  at  filling  stations  in  the  midwest.  Another  relates  to  a  Missouri 
mule  who  took  aim  with  his  heels  at  an  automobile  rattling  by.  The  car  turned 
a  somersault,  lit  next  a  fence,  ran  right  along  through  a  cornfield  till  it  came 
to  a  gate,  moved  onto  the  road  and  went  on  its  way  as  though  nothing  had 
happened.  The  mule  heehawed  with  desolation,  "What's  the  use?" 

Another  tells  of  a  farmer  and  his  family  stalled  on  a  railroad  crossing,  how  they 
jumped  out  m  time  to  see  a  limited  express  knock  it  into  flinders,  the  farmer 
calling,  "Well,  I  always  did  say  that  car  was  no  shucks  in  a  real  pinch." 

When  the  Masonic  Temple  in  Chicago  was  the  tallest  building  in  the  United  States 
west  of  New  York,  two  men  who  would  cheat  the  eyes  out  of  you  it  you  gave 
'em  a  chance,  look  an  Iowa  farmer  to  the  top  of  the  building  and  asked  him, 
"How  is  this  for  high?"  They  told  him  that  for  $25  they  would  go  down  m 
the  basement  and  turn  the  building  around  on  its  turn-table  for  him  while  he 
stood  on  the  roof  and  saw  how  this  seventh  wonder  of  the  world  worked.  He 
handed  them  $25.  They  went.  He  waited.  They  never  came  back. 

This  is  told  in  Chicago  as  a  folk  tale,  the  same  as  the  legend  of  Mrs.  O'Leary's 
cow  kicking  over  the  barn  lamp  that  started  the  Chicago  fire,  when  the  Georgia 
visitor,  Robert  Toombs,  telegraphed  an  Atlanta  crony,  "Chicago  is  on  fire, 
the  whole  city  burning  down,  God  be  praised'" 

Nor  is  the  prize  sleeper  Rip  Van  Winkle  and  his  scolding  wife  forgotten,  nor  the 
headless  horseman  scooting  through  Sleepy  Hollow 

Nor  the  sunken  treasure-ships  in  coves  and  harbors,  the  hideouts  of  gold  and  silver 
sought  by  Coronado,  nor  the  Flying  Dutchman  rounding  the  Cape  doomed  to 
nevermore  pound  his  ear  nor  ever  again  take  a  snooze  for  himself 

Nor  the  sailor's  caretaker  Mother  Carey  seeing  to  it  that  every  seafaring  man  in 
the  afterworld  has  a  seabird  to  bring  him  news  of  ships  and  women,  an  alba- 
tross for  the  admiral,  a  gull  for  the  deckhand 

Nor  the  sailor  with  a  sweetheart  in  every  port  of  the  world,  nor  the  ships  that 
set  out  with  flying  colors  and  all  the  promises  you  could  ask,  the  ships  never 
heard  of  again 

Nor  Jim  Liverpool,  the  rivcrman  who  could  jump  across  any  river  and  back  with- 
out touching  land  he  was  that  quick  on  his  feet 

Nor  Mike  Fink  along  the  Ohio  and  the  Mississippi,  half  wild  horse  and  half  cock- 
eyed alligator,  the  rest  of  him  snags  and  snapping  turtle.  "I  can  out-run,  out- 
jump,  out-shoot,  out-brag,  out-drink,  and  out-fight,  rough  and  tumble,  iu>  holts 
barred,  any  man  on  both  sides  of  the  river  from  Pittsburgh  to  New  Orleans 
and  back  again  to  St.  Louis.  My  trigger  finger  itches  and  I  want  to  go  redhot. 
War,  famine  and  bloodshed  puts  flesh  on  my  bones,  and  hardship's  my  daily 
bread." 

Nor  the  man  so  lean  he  threw  no  shadow:  six  rattlesnakes  struck  at  him  at  one 
time  and  every  one  missed  him. 


CARL  SANDBURG 


253 


THE    PEOPLE    WILL    LIVE    ON 

(from  "The  People,  Yes") 

The  people  will  live  on. 

The  learning  and  blundering  people  will  live  on. 
They  will  be  tricked  and  sold  and  again  sold 

And  go  back  to  the  nourishing  earth  for  rootholds, 

The  people  so  peculiar  in  renewal  and  comeback, 
You  can't  laugh  off  their  capacity  to  take  it. 

The  mammoth  rests  between  his  cyclonic  dramas. 

The  people  so  often  sleepy,  weary,  enigmatic, 
is  a  vast  huddle  with  many  units  saying: 
"I  earn  my  living. 

I  make  enough  to  get  by 

and  it  takes  all  my  time. 

If  I  had  more  time 

I  could  do  more  for  myself 

and  maybe  for  others. 

I  could  read  and  study 

and  talk  things  over 

and  find  out  about  things. 

It  takes  time. 

I  wish  I  had  the  time." 

The  people  is  a  tragic  and  comic  two-face: 
hero  and  hoodlum:  phantom  and  gorilla  twist- 
ing to  moan  with  a  gargoyle  mouth-  "They 
buy  me  and  sell  me  .  .  .  it's  a  game  .  .  . 
sometime  I'll  break  loose  .  .  ." 

Once  having  marched 
Over  the  margins  of  animal  necessity, 
Over  the  grim  line  of  sheer  subsistence 

Then  man  came 

To  the  deeper  rituals  of  his  bones, 
To  the  lights  lighter  than  any  bones, 
To  the  time  for  thinking  things  over, 
To  the  dance,  the  song,  the  story, 
Or  the  hours  given  over  to  dreaming, 

Once  having  so  marched. 

Between  the  finite  limitations  of  the  five  senses 

and  the  endless  yearnings  of  man  for  the  beyond 

the  people  hold  to  the  humdrum  bidding  of  work  and  food 

while  reaching  out  when  it  comes  their  way 

for  lights  beyond  the  prison  of  the  five  senses, 

for  keepsakes  lasting  beyond  any  hunger  or  death. 

This  reaching  is  alive. 
The  panderers  and  liars  have  violated  and  smutted  it. 

Yet  this  reaching  is  alive  yet 

for  lights  and  keepsakes. 


254  CARL  SANDBURG 

The  people  know  the  salt  of  the  sea 

and  the  strength  of  the  winds 

lashing  the  corners  of  the  earth. 

The  people  take  the  earth 

as  a  tomb  of  rest  and  a  cradle  of  hope. 

Who  else  speaks  for  the  Family  of  Man? 

They  are  in  tune  "and  step 

with  constellations  of  universal  law. 

The  people  is  a  polychrome, 

a  spectrum  and  a  prism 

held  in  a  moving  monolith, 

a  console  organ  of  changing  themes, 

a  clavilux  of  color  poems 

wherein  the  sea  offers  fog 

and  the  fog  moves  off  in  ram 

and  the  labrador  sunset  shortens 

to  a  nocturne  of  clear  stars 

serene  over  the  shot  spray 

of  northern  lights. 

The  steel  mill  sky  is  alive. 

The  fire  breaks  white  and  zigzag 

shot  on  a  gun-metal  gloaming. 

Man  is  a  long  time  coming. 

Man  will  yet  win. 

Brother  may  yet  line  up  with  brother: 

This  old  anvil  laughs  at  many  broken  hammers. 
There  are  men  who  can't  be  bought. 
The  fircborn  are  at  home  in  fire. 
The  stars  make  no  noise. 
You  can't  hinder  the  wind  from  blowing. 
Time  is  a  great  teacher. 
Who  can  live  without  hope? 

In  the  darkness  with  a  great  bundle  of  grief 

the  people  march. 
In  the  night,  and  overhead  a  shovel  of  stars  for 

keeps,  the  people  march: 

"Where  to?  what  next?'* 


ADELAIDE  CRAPSEY  255 

Adelaide  Crapsey 

DELAIDE  CRAPSEY,  daughter  of  the  famous  minister,  Algernon  S.  Crapsey,  was 
.  born,  September  9,  1878,  in  Rochester,  New  York,  where  she  spent  her  child- 
hood. She  entered  Vassar  College  in  1897,  graduating  with  the  class  of  1901.  Two 
years  after  graduation  she  began  work  as  a  teacher  of  History  and  Literature,  in 
Kemper  Hall,  Kenosha,  Wisconsin,  where  she  had  attended  preparatory  school.  In 
1905  she  went  abroad,  studying  archeology  in  Rome.  After  her  return  she  tried  again 
to  teach,  but  her  failing  health  compelled  her  to  discontinue,  and  though  she  became 
instructor  in  Poetics  at  Smith  College  in  1911  the  burden  was  too  great  for  her. 

Prior  to  this  time  she  had  written  little  verse,  her  chief  work  being  an  analysis  of 
English  metrics,  an  investigation  (which  she  never  finished)  of  problems  in  verse 
structure.  In  1913,  after  her  breakdown,  she  began  to  write  her  precise  and  some- 
times poignant  lines;  most  of  her  tiny  volume  was  composed  during  the  last  few 
months  of  her  life.  She  was  particularly  happy  in  her  brief  "Cmquains,"  a  form 
which  she  originated.  These  five-line  stanzas  in  the  strictest  possible  pattern  (the 
lines  having,  respectively,  two,  four,  six,  eight  and  two  syllables)  doubtless  owe 
something  to  the  Japanese  hokjtu,  but  Adelaide  Crapsey  saturated  them  with  her 
own  fragile  loveliness. 

"Her  death,"  writes  Claude  Bragdon,  who  was  not  only  her  friend  but  her  first 
publisher,  "was  tragic.  Full  of  the  desire  of  life  she  was  forced  to  go,  leaving  her 
work  all  unfinished.  Pier  last  year  was  spent  in  exile  at  Saranac.  From  her  window 
she  looked  down  on  the  graveyard — 'Trudeau's  Garden/  she  called  it,  with  grim-gay 
irony.  Here,  forbidden  the  work  her  metrical  study  entailed,  these  poems  grew — 
flowers  of  a  battlefield  ot  the  spirit."  She  died  at  her  home  in  Rochester,  New  York, 
on  October  8,  1914. 

Her  small  volume  Verse  appeared  in  1915,  and  a  part  of  the  unfinished  Study  in 
English  Metrics  was  posthumously  published  in  1918.  A  second  edition  of  Verse 
with  a  few  additional  poems  appeared  in  1922.  An  unconscious  Imagist,  she  gave 
fragility  a  firmness  which  saved  the  smallest  of  her  designs  from  preciosity. 

SIX    CINQUAINS 
NOVEMBER   NIGHT 

Listen  .  .  . 

With  faint  dry  sound, 

Like  steps  of  passing  ghosts, 

The  leaves,  frost-cnsp'd,  break  from  the  trees 

And  fall. 

SUSANNA   AND   THE   ELDERS 

"Why  do 

You  thus  devise 

Evil  against  her?"  "For  that 

She  is  beautiful,  delicate. 

Therefore." 


ADELAIDE  CRAPSEY 


TRIAD 

These  be 

Three  silent  things: 

The  falling  snow  .  .  .  the  hour 

Before  the  dawn  ...  the  mouth  of  one 

Just  dead. 

NIAGARA 

(Seen  on  a  night  in  Novembei) 

How  frail 

Above  the  bulk 

Of  crashing  water  hangs, 

Autumnal,  evanescent,  wan, 

The  moon. 

THE   WARNING 

Just  now, 

Out  of  the  strange 

Still  dusk  ...  as  strange,  as  still  .  .  . 

A  white  moth  flew.  Why  am  I  grown 

So  cold? 

ARBUTUS 

Not  Spring's 

Thou  art,  but  hcr's, 

Most  cool,  most  virginal, 

Winter's,  with  thy  faint  breath,  thy  snows 

Rose-tinged. 


My  songs  to  sell,  sweet  maid! 

I  pray  you  buy. 
This  one  will  teach  you  Lihth's  lore, 

And  this  what  Helen  knew, 
And  this  will  keep  your  gold  hair  gold, 

And  this  your  blue  eyes  blue; 
Sweet  maid,  I  pray  you  buy! 

Oh,  no,  she  will  not  buy. 

If  I'd  as  much  money  as  I  could  tell, 
I  never  would  cry  my  songs  to  sell, 
I  never  would  cry  my  songs  to  sell. 


THE    LONELY    DEATH 

In  the  cold  I  will  rise,  I  will  bathe 
In  waters  of  ice;  myself 
Will  shiver  and  shrive  myself, 
Alone  in  the  dawn,  and  anoint 
Forehead  and  feet  and  hands; 
I  will  shutter  the  windows  from  light, 
I  will  place  m  their  sockets  the  four 
Tall  candles  and  set  them  a-flame 
In  the  gray  of  the  dawn;  and  myself 
Will  lay  myself  straight  in  my  bed, 
And  draw  the  sheet  up  under  my  chin. 


ON    SEEING    WEATHER-BEATEN 
TREES 

Is  it  as  plainly  in  our  living  shown, 
By  slant  and  twist,  which  way  the  wind  hath 
blown  ? 


VENDOR'S  SONG 

My  songs  to  sell,  good  sir! 

I  pray  you  buy. 
Here's  one  will  win  a  lady's  tears, 

Here's  one  will  make  her  gay, 
Here's  one  will  charm  your  true  love  true 

Forever  and  a  day; 
Good  sir,  I  pray  you  buy! 

Oh,  no,  he  will  not  buy. 


SONG 

I  make  my  shroud,  but  no  one  knows — 
So  shimmering  fine  it  is  and  fair, 
With  stitches  set  in  even  rows. 
I  make  my  shroud,  but  no  one  knows. 

In  door-way  where  the  lilac  blows, 
Humming  a  little  wandering  air, 
I  make  my  shroud  and  no  one  knows, 
So  shimmering  fine  it  is  and  fair. 

THE    IMMORTAL    RESIDUE 

Wouldst  thou  find  my  ashes?  Look 
In  the  pages  of  my  book; 
And,  as  these  thy  hand  doth  turn, 
Know  here  is  my  funeral  urn. 


VACHEL  LINDSAY  257 


Vachcl  Lindsay 

(Nicholas)  Vachcl  Lindsay  was  born  in  Springfield,  Illinois,  November  TO,  1879. 
Hfs  home  for  many  years  was  next  door  to  the  executive  mansion  of  the  State  of 
Illinois;  from  the  window  where  Lindsay  did  most  of  his  writing,  he  saw  governors 
come  and  go,  including  the  martyred  John  P.  Altgeld,  whom  he  has  celebrated  m 
one  of  his  finest  poems.  He  graduated  from  the  Springfield  High  School,  attended 
Hiram  College  (1897-1900),  studied  at  the  Art  Institute  at  Chicago  (1900-3)  and  at 
the  New  York  School  of  Art  (1904).  After  two  years  of  lecturing  and  settlement 
work,  he  took  the  first  of  his  long  tramps,  walking  through  Florida,  Georgia,  and 
the  Carolmas,  preaching  "the  gospel  of  beauty,"  and  formulating  his  unique  plans 
for  a  communal  art.  During  the  following  five  years,  Lindsay  made  several  of  these 
trips,  traveling  as  a  combination  missionary  and  minstrel.  Like  a  true  revivalist,  he 
attempted  to  wake  a  response  to  beauty,  distributing  a  little  pamphlet  entitled 
"Rhymes  to  Be  Traded  for  Bread." 

Lindsay  began  to  create  more  poetry  to  reach  the  public — all  of  his  verse  was 
written  in  his  role  of  apostle.  He  was,  primarily,  a  rhyming  John  the  Baptist  sing- 
ing to  convert  the  heathen,  to  stimulate  and  encourage  the  hall -hearted  dreams  that 
hide  and  are  smothered  in  sordid  villages  and  townships.  But  the  great  audiences 
he  was  endeavoring  to  reach  did  not  hear  him,  even  though  his  collection  General 
William  Booth  Entets  Into  Heaven  (1913)  struck  many  a  loud  and  racy  note. 

Lindsay  broadened  his  effects,  developed  the  chant,  and,  the  following  year,  pub- 
lished his  The  Congo  and  Other  Poems  (1914),  an  infectious  blend  of  rhyme,  reli- 
gion, and  rag-time.  In  the  title-poem  and,  in  a  lesser  degree,  the  three  companion 
chants,  Lindsay  struck  his  most  powerful — and  most  popular — vein.  When  intoned 
in  Lindsay's  resonant  baritone,  it  gave  people  that  primitive  joy  in  syncopated  sound 
that  is  at  the  very  base  of  song.  In  these  experiments  in  breaking  down  the  barriers 
between  poetry  and  music,  Lindsay  (obviously  infected  by  the  echolaha  of  Poe's 
"Bells")  tried  to  create  what  he  called  a  "Higher  Vaudeville"  imagination,  carrying 
the  form  back  to  the  old  Greek  precedent  where  every  line  was  half-*poken,  half- 
sung.  Gestures  and  stage  directions,  even  chanted  responses,  were  added. 

Lindsay's  innovation  succeeded  at  once.  The  novelty,  the  speed,  the  clatter,  forced 
the  attention  of  people  who  had  never  paid  the  slightest  heed  to  the  poet's  quieter 
verses.  Men  heard  the  sounds  of  hurtling  America  in  these  lines  even  when  they 
were  deaf  to  its  spirit.  They  failed  to  see  that,  beneath  the  noise  of  "The  Kallyope 
Yell"  and  "The  Santa  Fe  Trail,"  Lindsay  was  partly  an  admirer,  partly  an  ironical 
critic  of  the  shrieking  energy  of  these  states.  By  his  effort  to  win  the  enemy  over, 
Lindsay  had  persuaded  the  proverbially  tired  business  man  to  listen  at  last.  But,  in 
overstressmg  the  vaudeville  features,  there  arose  the  danger  of  Lindsay  the  poet 
being  lost  m  Lindsay  the  entertainer.  The  sympathetic  celebration  of  Negro  spirits 
and  psychology  (seen  at  their  best  in  "The  Congo,"  "John  Brown"  and  "Simon 
Legree")  degenerated  into  the  crude  buffooneries  of  "The  .Daniel  Jazz"  and  "The 
Blacksmith's  Serenade."  The  three  bracketed  poems,  and  a  few  others,  are  certain 
of  a  place  in  the  history  of  American  poetry. 

Lindsay's  earnestness,  keyed  up  by  an  exuberant  fancy,  saved  him.  The  Chinese 


258  VACHEL  LINDSAY 

Nightingale  (1917)  begins  with  the  most  whimsical  extended  rhymes  Lindsay  ever 
devised.  This  title-poem,  with  its  air  of  free  improvisation,  is  his  finest  piece  of 
sheer  texture.  And  if  the  subsequent  The  Golden  Whales  of  California  (1920)  is 
less  distinctive,  it  is  principally  because  the  author  had  written  too  much  and  too 
speedily  to  be  self-critical.  It  is  his  peculiar  appraisal  of  loveliness,  the  rollicking 
high  spirits  joined  to  a  stubborn  evangelism,  that  makes  Lindsay  so  representative 
a  product  of  his  environment. 

Collected  Poems  (1923)  is  a  complete  and  almost  cruel  exhibit  of  Lindsay's  best 
and  worst.  Inflated  stanzas  alternate  with  some  of  the  most  charming  children's 
poetry  of  the  times;  the  set  of  fanciful  Moon  Poems  would  be  enough  to  keep 
Lindsay's  name  alive.  That  Lindsay  had  lost  whatever  faculty  of  self-appraisal  he 
may  have  possessed  is  evidenced  by  page  after  page  of  crudities;  verses  are  propelled 
by  nothing  more  than  physical  energy  whipping  up  a  trivial  idea.  What  mars  so 
much  of  this  writing  is  Lindsay's  attempt  to  give  every  wisp  of  fancy  a  cosmic  or 
at  least  a  national  significance.  Thus  that  intoxicating  chant  "The  Ghosts  of  the 
Buffaloes"  appears  in  the  later  edition  with  an  unfortunate  appendage,  an  irrelevant 
hortatory  appeal  beginning,  "Would  I  might  rouse  the  Lincoln  in  you  all'"  But,  in 
spite  of  the  fact  that  the  poet  suffered  from  a  complex  of  undiscnminating  patri- 
otism, a  curious  hero-worship  which  makes  him  link  Woodrow  Wilson  with  Socra- 
tes, his  very  catholicity  was  representative  of  a  great  part  of  his  country.  Johnny 
Appleseed  and  John  L.  Sullivan,  Daniel  Boone  and  William  Jennings  Bryan,  Andrew 
Jackson  and  P.  T.  Barnum — such  figures  were  the  symbols  of  his  motley  America. 
They  were  not  merely  heroes  but  derm-gods.  They  typified  the  incongruous  blend 
of  high  idealism  and  childish  fantasy,  of  beauty  and  ballyhoo  which  made  America 
resemble  (to  Lindsay)  a  County  Fair — 

every  soul  resident 
In  the  earth's  one  circus  tent. 

It  was  a  combination  that  made  the  United  States  "the  golden  dream"  created  by 
pioneers  and  baseball  players,  Presidents  and  movie-queens.  Nuances  of  thought  or 
expression  were  forgotten;  exuberance,  uncontrolled  by  taste  or  reason,  triumphed. 
Going'tO'thc-Sun  (1923),  Going-to-the-Stars  (1926),  and  The  Candle  in  the  Cabin 
(1927),  illustrated  with  Lindsay's  characteristic  and  flowery  drawings,  contain  some 
charming  and  almost  girlish  verses,  but  followed  each  other  in  too  rapid  succession 
and  betray  Lindsay's  uncritical  loquacity.  His  prose  is  far  better  than  the  later  verse. 
The  Litany  of  Washington  Street  (1929),  described  as  "a  kind  of  Washington's 
birthday,  Lincoln's  birthday,  Whitman's  birthday,  Jefferson's  birthday  book,"  is  a  set 
of  Fourth  of  July  orations  on  an  idealized  Mam  Street  stretching  from  Connecticut 
to  Calcutta. 

Much  of  Lindsay  will  die;  he  will  not  live  as  either  a  prophet  or  a  politician.  But 
the  vitality  which  impels  the  best  of  his  galloping  meters  will  persist;  his  innocent 
wildness  of  imagination,  outlasting  his  naive  programs,  will  charm  even  those  to 
whom  his  declamations  are  no  longer  a  novelty.  His  gospel  is  no  less  original  for 
being  preached  through  a  saxophone. 

Besides  his  original  poetry,  Lindsay  had  embodied  his  experiences  and  meditations 
on  the  road  in  two  prose  volumes,  A  Handy  Guide  for  Beggars  (1916)  and  Adven- 
tures While  Pt caching  the  Gospel  of  Beauty  (1914),  as  well  as  an  enthusiastic  study 


VACHEL  LINDSAY  259 

of  the  "silent  drama,"  The  Art  of  the  Moving  Picture  (1915).  A  curious  document, 
half  rhapsody,  halt  visionary  novel,  entitled  The  Golden  Boo^  of  S pun g field,  ap- 
peared in  1920. 

Lindsay  traded  on  his  surplus  energy.  Some  of  it  went  into  private  games,  such 
as  the  establishment  of  each  individual's  "personal  hieroglyphics,"  some  into  giandi- 
ose  but  futile  schemes,  most  into  lecturing.  For  more  than  twenty  years  he  ranged 
the  country,  exciting  his  audiences  and  exhausting  himself.  Alter  lifty  the  strain 
was  too  much  for  him.  He  collapsed  at  the  beginning  of  his  fifty-third  year  just  as 
he  should  have  been  turning  to  the  larger  works  he  had  so  often  discussed  with 
friends.  The  fear  of  poverty  overcame  him;  his  exuberance  vanished;  he  was  plagued 
with  self-doubt.  He  felt  that  he  was  being  neglected,  even  persecuted;  he  convinced 
himself  he  was  a  failure.  The  high-spirited  "broncho  that  would  not  be  biokcn" 
was  broken  at  last.  He  committed  suicide  on  the  night  of  December  5,  1931. 


THE    CONGO 

(A  Study  of  the  Negto  Race) 

I.  THEIR  BASIC  SAVAGERY 

Fat  black  bucks  in  a  wine-barrel  room, 

Barrel-house  kings,  with  feet  unstable, 

Sagged  and  reeled  and  pounded  on  the  table,  A  deep  rolling 

Pounded  on  the  table,  bass. 

Beat  an  empty  barrel  with  the  handle  of  a  broom, 

Hard  as  they  were  able, 

Boom,  boom,  BOOM, 

With  a  silk  umbrella  and  the  handle  of  a  broom, 

Boomlay,  boomlay,  boomlay,  BOOM. 

THEN  I  had  religion,  THEN  I  had  a  vision. 

I  could  not  turn  from  their  revel  in  derision. 

THEN  I  SAW  THE  CONGO,  CREEPING  THROUGH  THE  BLACK,  Moiedchbeiatc. 

CUTTING  THROUGH  THE  JUNGLE  WITH  A  GOLDEN  TRACK.  Solemnly  chanted. 

Then  along  that  rivcrbank 

A  thousand  miles 

Tattooed  cannibals  danced  in  files; 

Then  I  heard  the  boom  of  the  blood-lust  song 

And  a  thigh-bone  beating  on  a  tin-pan  gong.  A  rapidly  piling 

And  "BLOOD"  screamed  the  whistles  and  the  fifes  of  the  warriors,      climax  of  <pecd 

"BLOOD"  screamed  the  skull-faced,  lean  witch-doctors,  and  racket. 

"Whirl  ye  the  deadly  voo-doo  rattle, 

Harry  the  uplands, 

Steal  all  the  cattle, 

Rattle-rattle,  rattle-rattle, 

Bmgl 

Boomlay,  boomlay,  boomlay,  BOOM," 

A  roaring,  epic,  rag-time  tune  With  a  philo- 

From  the  mouth  of  the  Congo  sophic  pause. 

To  the  Mountains  of  the  Moon. 


260 


VACHEL  LINDSAY 


Death  is  an  Elephant, 

Torch-eyed  and  horrible, 

Foam-flanked  and  terrible. 

BOOM,  steal  the  pygmies, 

BOOM,  kill  the  Arabs, 

BOOM,  kill  the  white  men, 

Hoo,  Hoo,  Hoo. 

Listen  to  the  yell  of  Leopold's  ghost 

Burning  in  Hell  for  his  hand-maimed  host. 

Hear  how  the  demons  chuckle  and  yell 

Cutting  his  hands  off,  down  in  Hell. 

Listen  to  the  creepy  proclamation, 

Blown  through  the  lairs  of  the  forest-nation, 

Blown  past  the  white-ants'  hill  of  clay, 

Blown  past  the  marsh  where  the  butterflies  play: — 

"Be  careful  what  you  do, 

Or  Mumbo-Jumbo,  God  of  the  Congo, 

And  all  of  the  other 

Gods  of  the  Congo, 

Mumbo-Jumbo  will  hoo  doo  you, 

Mumbo-Jumbo  will  hoo-doo  you, 

Mumbo-Jumbo  will  hoo-doo  you." 

II.  THEIR  IRREPRESSIBLE  HIGH  SPIRITS 

Wild  crap-shooters  with  a  whoop  and  a  call 

Danced  the  juba  in  their  gambling-hall 

And  laughed  fit  to  kill,  and  shook  the  town, 

And  guyed  the  policemen  and  laughed  them  down 

With  a  boomlay,  boomlay,  boomlay,  BOOM.  .  .  . 

THEN  I  s\w  THE  CONGO,  CREEPING  THROUGH  THE  BLACK, 

CUTTING  THROUGH  THE  JUNGLE  WITH  A  GOLDEN  TRACK. 

A  negro  fairyland  swung  into  view, 

A  minstrel  river 

Where  dreams  come  true. 

The  ebony  palace  soared  on  high 

Through  the  blossoming  trees  to  the  evening  sky, 

The  inlaid  porches  and  casements  shone 

With  gold  and  ivory  and  elephant-bone. 

And  the  black  crowd  laughed  till  their  sides  were  sore 

At  the  baboon  butler  in  the  agate  door, 

And  the  well-known  tunes  of  the  parrot  band 

That  trilled  on  the  bushes  of  that  magic  land. 

A  troupe  of  skull-faced  witch-men  came 

Through  the  agate  doorway  in  suits  of  flame, 

Yes,  long-tailed  coats  with  a  gold-leaf  crust 

And  hats  that  were  covered  with  diamond-dust. 

And  the  crowd  in  the  court  gave  a  whoop  and  a  call 

And  danced  the  juba  from  wall  to  wall. 

But  the  witch-men  suddenly  stilled  the  throng 

With  a  stern  cold  glare,  and  a  stern  old  song: — 

"Mumbo-Jumbo  will  hoo-doo  you."  .  .  . 


Shrilly  and  with  a 
heavily  accented 
meter. 


Life  the  wind  in 
the  chimney. 


All  the  o  founds 
vety  golden 
Heavy  accents 
vcty  heavy 
Light  accents 
vet  y  light  Last 
line  whispered. 


Rather  shrill 
and  high. 


Read  exactly  as 
in  ft)  «/  section. 

Lay  emphasis  on 
the  delicate  ideas. 
Keep  a\  light  - 
footed  as  possible. 


With  pomposity. 


With  a  great 
deliberation  and 
ghostlmess. 


VACHEL  LINDSAY 


261 


Just  then  from  the  doorway,  as  fat  as  shotes, 
Came  the  cake-walk  princes  in  their  long  red  coats, 
Shoes  with  a  patent  leather  shine, 
And  tall  silk  hats  that  were  red  as  wine. 
And  they  pranced  with  their  butterfly  partners  there, 
Coal-black  maidens  with  pearls  in  their  hair, 
Knee-skirts  trimmed  with  the  jessamine  sweet, 
And  bells  on  their  ankles  and  little  black  feet. 
And  the  couples  railed  at  the  chant  and  the  trown 
Of  the  witch-men  lean,  and  laughed  them  down. 
(O  rare  was  the  revel,  and  well  worth  while 
That  made  those  glowering  witch-men  smile). 

The  cake-walk  royalty  then  began 

To  walk  for  a  cake  that  was  tall  as  a  man 

To  the  tune  of  "Boomlay,  boomlay,  BOOM," 

While  the  witch-men  laughed,  with  a  sinister  air, 

And  sang  with  the  scalawags  prancing  there: — 

"Walk  with  care,  walk  with  care, 

Or  Mumbo-Jumbo,  God  of  the  Congo, 

And  all  of  the  other 

Gods*  of  the  Congo, 

Mumbo-Jumbo  will  hoo-doo  you. 

Beware,  beware,  walk  with  care, 

Boomlay,  boomlay,  boomlay,  boom. 

Boomlay,  boomlay,  boomlay,  boom, 

Boomlay,  boomlay,  boomlay,  boom, 

Boomlay,  boomlay,  boomlay, 

BOOM/' 

O  rare  was  the  revel,  and  well  worth  while 

That  made  those  glowering  witch-men  smile. 

III.  THE  HOPE  OF  THEIR  RELIGION 

A  good  old  negro  in  the  slums  of  the  town 

Preached  at  a  sister  for  her  velvet  gown. 

Howled  at  a  brother  for  his  low-clown  ways, 

His  prowling,  guzzling,  sneak-thief  days. 

Beat  on  the  Bible  till  he  wore  it  out, 

Starting  the  jubilee  revival  shout. 

And  some  had  visions,  as  they  stood  on  chairs, 

And  sang  of  Jacob,  and  the  golden  stairs. 

And  they  all  repented,  a  thousand  strong, 

From  their  stupor  and  savagery  and  sin  and  wrong 

And  slammed  their  hymn  books  till  they  shook  the  room 

With  "Glory,  glory,  glory," 

And  "Boom,  boom,  BOOM." 

THEN  I  SAW  THE  CONGO,  CREEPING  THROUGH  THE  BLACK, 

CUTTING  THROUGH  THE  JUNGLE  WITH  A  GOLDEN  TRACK. 

And  the  gray  sky  opened  like  a  new-rent  veil 

And  showed  the  Apostles  with  their  coats  of  mail. 

In  bright  white  steel  they  were  seated  round 


With  overwhelm- 
tng  a  "'t  trance, 
good  cheer,  and 
pomp. 

With  growing 
<pcfd  and 
shatply  Mailed 
dance-rhythm. 


With  a  touch  of 
ni^to  dial t it  t 
and 

asiapidly  as 
po^ihlc  towatd 
the  end. 


Slow  philo- 
sophic culm. 


Ucuvy  bif<< 
With  alitnal 
imitation  of 
dim  p- meeting 
iail{ct,and 
trance. 


Exactly  as  in 
the  first  section. 


262 


VACHEL  LINDSAY 


And  their  fire-eyes  watched  where  the  Congo  wound. 
And  the  twelve  Apostles,  from  their  thrones  on  high, 
Thrilled  all  the  forest  with  their  heavenly  cry: — 
"Mumbo- Jumbo  will  die  in  the  jungle; 
Never  again  will  he  hoo-doo  you, 
Never  again  will  he  hoo-doo  you." 

Then  along  that  river,  a  thousand  miles 

The  vine-snared  trees  fell  down  in  files. 

Pioneer  angels  cleared  the  way 

For  a  Congo  paradise,  for  babes  at  play, 

For  sacred  capitals,  for  temples  clean. 

Gone  were  the  skull-faced  witch-men  lean. 

There,  where  the  wild  ghost-gods  had  wailed 

A  million  boats  of  the  angels  sailed 

With  oars  of  silver,  and  prows  of  blue 

And  silken  pennants  that  the  sun  shone  through. 

'Twas  a  land  transfigured,  'twas  a  new  creation. 

Oh,  a  singing  wind  swept  the  negro  nation 

And  on  through  the  backwoods  clearing  flew: — 

"Mumbo-Jumbo  is  dead  in  the  jungle. 

Never  again  will  he  hoo-doo  you. 

Never  again  will  he  hoo-doo  you." 

Redeemed  were  the  forests,  the  beasts  and  the  men, 

And  only  the  vulture  dared  again 

By  the  far,  lone  mountains  of  the  moon 

To  cry,  in  the  silence,  the  Congo  tune: — 

"Mumbo-Jumbo  will  hoo-doo  you, 

Mumbo  .  .  .  Jumbo  .  .  .  will  .  .  .  hoo-doo  .  .  .  you." 


Stwg  to  the  tune 
oj  "Hark,  ten 
thousand  harps 
and  voices." 


With  gt  owing 
dclibeiation 
and  joy. 


In  a  rather 
high  f^cy — as 
delicately  as 
possible. 


To  the  tune  of 


thousand  harps 
and  voices" 


Dying  off  into 
a  penetrating, 
terrified  whisper. 


TO    A    GOLDEN- HAIRED    GIRL    IN    A    LOUISIANA    TOWN 

You  are  a  sunrise, 

If  a  star  should  rise  instead  of  the  sun. 

You  are  a  moonrise, 

If  a  star  should  come  in  the  place  of  the  moon. 

You  are  the  Spring, 

If  a  face  should  bloom  instead  of  an  apple-bough. 

You  are  my  love, 

If  your  heart  is  as  kind 

As  your  young  eyes  now. 


GENERAL    WILLIAM    BOOTH    ENTERS    INTO    HEAVEN 

(To  be  sung  to  the  tune  of  "The  Blood  of  the  Lamb"  with  indicated  instruments) 


(Bass  drum  beaten  loudly.) 
Booth  led  boldly  with  his  big  bass  drum — 
(Are  you  washed  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb?) 
The  Saints  smiled  gravely  and  they  said:  "He's  come." 


VACHEL  LINDSAY  263 

(Are  you  washed  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb?) 
Walking  lepers  followed,  rank  on  rank, 
Lurching  bravos  from  the  ditches  dank, 
Drabs  tram  the  alleyways  and  drug  fiends  pale — 
Minds  still  passion-ridden,  soul-powers  frail: — 
Vermin-eaten  saints  with  moldy  breath, 
Unwashed  legions  with  the  ways  of  Death — 
(Are  you  washed  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb?) 

(Banjos.) 

Every  slum  had  sent  its  half-a-score 
The  round  world  over.  (Booth  had  groaned  for  more.) 
Every  banner  that  the  wide  world  flies 
Bloomed  with  glory  and  transcendent  dyes. 
Big-voiced  lasses  made  their  banjos  bang, 
Tranced,  fanatical  they  shrieked  and  sang: — 
"Are  you  washed  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb?" 
Hallelujah'  It  was  queer  to  see 
Bull-necked  convicts  with  that  land  make  free. 
Loons  with  trumpets  blowed  a  blare,  blare,  blare 
On,  on  upward  thro*  the  golden  air! 
(Are  you  washed  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb?) 

ii 

(Bass  drum  slower  and  softer.) 
Booth  died  blind  and  still  by  faith  he  trod, 
Eyes  still  dazzled  by  the  ways  of  God. 
Booth  ltd  boldly,  and  he  looked  the  chief, 
Eagle  countenance  in  sharp  relief, 
Beard  a-flymg,  air  of  high  command 
Unabated  in  that  holy  land. 

(Sweet  flute  music.) 

Jesus  came  from  out  the  court-house  door, 
Stretched  his  hands  above  the  passing  poor. 
Booth  saw  not,  but  led  his  queer  ones  there 
Round  and  round  the  mighty  court-house  square. 
Yet  in  an  instant  all  that  blear  review 
Marched  on  spotless,  clad  m  raiment  new. 
The  lame  were  straightened,  withered  limbs  uncurled 
And  blind  eyes  opened  on  a  new,  sweet  world. 

(Bass  drum  louder.) 

Drabs  and  vixens  in  a  flash  made  whole! 
Gone  was  the  weasel-head,  the  snout,  the  jowl! 
Sages  and  sibyls  now,  and  athletes  clean, 
Rulers  of  empires,  and  of  forests  green! 

(Grand  chorus  of  all  instruments.  Tambourines  to  the  foreground.) 
The  hosts  were  sandaled,  and  their  wings  were  fire! 
(Are  you  washed  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb?) 
But  their  noise  played  havoc  with  the  angel-choir. 


VACHEL  LINDSAY 


(Are  you  washed  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb?) 
Oh,  shout  Salvation'  It  was  good  to  sec 
Kings  and  Princes  by  the  Lamb  set  free. 
The  banjos  rattled  and  the  tambourines 
Jing-jing-jingled  in  the  hands  of  Queens. 

(Reverently  sung,  no  instruments.) 
And  when  Booth  halted  by  the  curb  for  prayer 
He  saw  his  Master  thro'  the  flag-filled  air. 
Christ  came  gently  with  a  robe  and  crown 
For  Booth  the  soldier,  while  the  throng  knelt  down. 
He  saw  King  Jesus.  They  were  face  to  face, 
And  he  knelt  a-weeping  in  that  holy  place. 
Are  you  washed  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb? 


THE  EAGLE  THAT  IS  FORGOTTEN 

(John  P.  Altgeld.  Botn  December  30,  1847;  died  March  12,  7902) 

Sleep  softly  .  .  .  eagle  forgotten  .  .  .  under  the  stone. 

Time  has  its  way  with  you  there,  and  the  clay  has  its  own. 

"We  have  buried  him  now,"  thought  your  foes,  and  in  secret  rejoiced. 

They  made  a  brave  show  of  their  mourning,  their  hatred  unvoiced, 

They  had  snarled  at  you,  barked  at  you,  foamed  at  you,  day  after  day, 

Now  you  were  ended.  They  praised  you,  .  .  .  and  laid  you  away. 

The  others  that  mourned  you  in  silence  and  terror  and  truth, 

The  widow  bereft  of  her  pittance,  the  boy  without  youth, 

The  mocked  and  the  scorned  and  the  wounded,  the  lame  and  the  poor 

That  should  have  remembered  forever,  .  .  .  remember  no  more. 

Where  are  those  lovers  of  yours,  on  what  name  do  they  call 
The  lost,  that  in  armies  wept  over  your  funeral  pall? 
They  call  on  the  names  of  a  hundred  high-valiant  ones, 
A  hundred  white  eagles  have  risen,  the  sons  of  your  sons, 
The  zeal  in  their  wings  is  a  zeal  that  your  dreaming  began 
The  valor  that  wore  out  your  soul  in  the  service  of  man. 

Sleep  softly,  .  .  .  eagle  forgotten,  .  .  .  under  the  stone, 

Time  has  its  way  with  you  there,  and  the  day  has  its  own. 

Sleep  on,  O  brave-hearted,  O  wise  man,  that  kindled  the  flame — 

To  live  in  mankind  is  far  more  than  to  live  in  a  name, 

To  live  in  mankind,  far,  far  more  .  .  .  than  to  live  in  a  name. 


THE  GHOSTS  OF  THE  BUFFALOES 

Last  night  at  black  midnight  I  woke  with  a  cry, 

The  windows  were  shaking,  there  was  thunder  on  high, 

The  floor  was  atremble,  the  door  was  ajar, 

White  fires,  crimson  fires,  shone  from  afar. 


VACHEL  LINDSAY  265 

I  rushed  to  the  dooryard.  The  city  was  gone. 

My  home  was  a  hut  without  orchard  or  lawn. 

It  was  mud-smear  and  logs  near  a  whispering  stream, 

Nothing  else  built  by  man  could  I  see  in  my  dream  .  .  c 

Then  .  .  . 

Ghost-kings  came  headlong,  row  upon  row, 

Gods  of  the  Indians,  torches  aglow. 

They  mounted  the  bear  and  the  elk  and  the  deer, 

And  eagles  gigantic,  aged  and  sere, 

They  rode  long-horn  cattle,  they  cried  "A-la-la." 

They  lifted  the  knife,  the  bow,  and  the  spear, 

They  lifted  ghost-torches  from  dead  fires  below, 

The  midnight  made  grand  with  the  cry  "A-la-la." 

The  midnight  made  grand  with  a  red-god  charge, 

A  red-god  show, 

A  red-god  show, 

"A-la-la,  a-la-la,  a-la-la,  a-la-la." 

With  bodies  like  bronze,  and  terrible  eyes 

Came  the  rank  and  the  file,  with  catamount  cries, 

Gibbering,  yipping,  with  hollow-skull  clacks, 

Riding  white  bronchos  with  skeleton  backs, 

Scalp-hunters,  beaded  and  spangled  and  bad, 

Naked  and  lustful  and  foaming  and  mad, 

Flashing  primeval  demoniac  scorn, 

Blood-thirst  and  pomp  amid  darkness  reborn, 

Power  and  glory  that  sleep  in  the  grass 

While  the  winds  and  the  snows  and  the  great  rains  pass0 

They  crossed  the  gray  river,  thousands  abreast, 

They  rode  out  in  infinite  lines  to  the  west, 

Tide  upon  tide  of  strange  fury  and  foam, 

Spirits  and  wraiths,  the  blue  was  their  home, 

The  sky  was  their  goal  where  the  star-flags  are  furled, 

And  on  past  those  far  golden  splendors  they  whirled. 

They  burned  to  dim  meteors,  lost  in  the  deep, 

And  I  turned  in  dazed  wonder,  thinking  of  sleep. 

And  the  wind  crept  by 

Alone,  unkempt,  unsatisfied, 

The  wind  cried  and  cried — 

Muttered  of  massacres  long  past, 

Buffaloes  in  shambles  vast  .  .  . 

An  owl  said,  "Hark,  what  is  a-wing?" 

I  heard  a  cricket  caroling, 

I  heard  a  cricket  caroling, 

I  heard  a  cricket  caroling. 

Then  .  .  . 

Snuffing  the  lightning  that  crashed  from  on  high 

Rose  royal  old  buffaloes,  row  upon  row. 

The  lords  of  the  prairie  came  galloping  by. 


266  VACHEL  LINDSAY 

And  I  cried  in  my  heart  "A-la-la,  a-la-la. 

A  red-god  show, 

A  red-god  show, 

A-la-la,  a-la-la,  a-la-la." 

Buffaloes,  buffaloes,  thousands  abreast, 

A  scourge  and  amazement,  they  swept  to  the  west. 

With  black  bobbing  noses,  with  red  rolling  tongues, 

Coughing  forth  steam  from  their  leather-wrapped  lungs, 

Cows  with  their  calves,  bulls  big  and  vain, 

Goring  the  laggards,  shaking  the  mane, 

Stamping  flint  feet,  flashing  moon  eyes, 

Pompous  and  owlish,  shaggy  and  wise. 

Like  sea-cliffs  and  caves  resounded  their  ranks 
With  shoulders  like  waves,  and  undulant  flanks. 
Tide  upon  tide  of  strange  fury  and  foam, 
Spirits  and  wraiths,  the  blue  was  their  home, 
The  sky  was  their  goal  where  the  star-flags  are  furled, 
And  on  past  those  far  golden  splendors  they  whirled. 
They  burned  to  dim  meteors,  lost  in  the  deep, 
And  I  turned  in  dazed  wonder,  thinking  of  sleep. 

I  heard  a  cricket's  cymbals  play, 

A  scarecrow  lightly  flapped  his  rags, 

And  a  pan  that  hung  by  his  shoulder  rang, 

Rattled  and  thumped  in  a  listless  way, 

And  now  the  wind  in  the  chimney  sang, 

The  wind  in  the  chimney, 

The  wind  in  the  chimney, 

The  wind  in  the  chimney, 

Seemed  to  say: — 

"Dream,  boy,  dream, 

If  you  anywise  can. 

To  dream  is  the  work 

Of  beast  or  man. 

Life  is  the  west-going  dream-storm's  breath, 

Lite  is  a  dream,  the  sigh  of  the  skies, 

The  breath  of  the  stars,  that  nod  on  their  pillows 

With  their  golden  hair  mussed  over  their  eyes." 

The  locust  played  on  his  musical  wing, 

Sang  to  his  mate  of  love's  delight. 

I  heard  the  whippoorwill's  soft  fret. 

I  heard  a  cricket  caroling, 

I  heard  a  cricket  caroling, 

I  heard  a  cricket  say:  "Good-night,  good  night, 

Good-night,  good-night,  .  .  .  good-night." 


THE    TRAVELER 

The  moon's  a  devil  jester 
Who  makes  himself  too  free. 


VACHtiL  LINDSAY  267 

The  rascal  is  not  always 
Where  he  appears  to  be. 
Sometimes  he  is  in  my  heart — 
Sometimes  he  is  in  the  sea; 
Then  tides  are  in  my  heart, 
And  tides  are  in  the  sea. 

O  traveler,  abiding  not 
Where  he  pretends  to  be! 


A  NEGRO  SERMON:  —  SIMON  LEGREE 

Legree's  big  house  was  white  and  green. 

His  cotton-fields  were  the  best  to  be  seen. 

He  had  strong  horses  and  opulent  cattle, 

And  bloodhounds  bold,  with  chains  that  would  rattle. 

His  garret  was  full  of  curious  things: 

Books  of  magic,  bags  of  gold, 

And  rabbits'  feet  on  long  twine  strings, 

But  he  went  down  to  the  Devil. 

Legree,  he  sported  a  brass-buttoned  coat, 

A  snake-skin  necktie,  a  blood-red  shirt. 

Legree,  he  had  a  beard  like  a  goat, 

And  a  thick  hairy  neck,  and  eyes  like  dirt. 

His  puffed-out  cheeks  were  fish-belly  white, 

He  had  great  long  teeth,  and  an  appetite. 

He  ate  raw  meat,  'most  every  meal, 

And  rolled  his  eyes  till  the  cat  would  squeal. 

His  fist  was  an  enormous  size 

To  mash  poor  niggers  that  told  him  lies: 

He  was  surely  a  witch-man  in  disguise. 

But  he  went  down  to  the  Devil. 

He  wore  hip-boots,  and  would  wade  all  day 

To  capture  his  slaves  that  had  fled  away. 

But  he  went  down  to  the  Devil. 

He  beat  poor  Uncle  Tom  to  death 

Who  prayed  for  Legree  with  his  last  breath. 

Then  Uncle  Tom  to  Eva  flew, 

To  the  high  sanctoriums  bright  and  new; 

And  Simon  Legree  stared  up  beneath, 

And  cracked  his  heels,  and  ground  his  teeth: 

And  went  down  to  the  Devil. 

He  crossed  the  yard  in  the  storm  and  gloom; 

He  went  into  his  grand  front  room. 

He  said,  "I  killed  him,  and  I  don't  care." 

He  kicked  a  hound,  he  gave  a  swear; 

He  tightened  his  belt,  he  took  a  lamp, 

Went  down  cellar  to  the  webs  and  damp. 


268  VACHEL  LINDSAY 

There  in  the  middle  of  the  moldy  floor 
He  heaved  up  a  sLib;  he  found  a  door — 
And  went  down  to  the  Devil. 

His  lamp  blew  out,  but  his  eyes  burned  bright. 

Simon  Lcgree  stepped  down  all  night-  - 

Down,  down  to  the  Devil. 

Simon  Lcgrec  he  reached  the  place, 

He  saw  one  half  of  the  human  race, 

He  saw  the  Devil  on  a  wide  green  throne, 

Gnawing  the  meat  from  a  big  ham-bone, 

And  he  said  to  Mister  Dc\il* 

"I  see  that  you  have  much  to  eat — 

A  red  ham-bone  is  surely  sweet. 

I  see  that  you  have  lion's  ftct; 

I  see  your  frame  is  fat  and  fine, 

1  see  you  drink  your  poison  wine — 

Blood  and  burning  turpentine." 

And  the  Devil  said  to  Simon  Lcgrec: 

"I  like  your  style,  so  wicked  and  free. 

Come  sit  and  share  my  throne  with  me, 

And  let  us  bark  and  revel  " 
And  theie  they  sit  and  gnash  their  teeth, 
And  each  one  wears  a  hop-vine  wreath 
They  are  matching  pennies  ami  shooting  craps. 
They  arc  playing  poker  and  taking  naps. 
And  old  Legree  is  fat  and  fine: 
He  eats  the  fire,  he  drinks  the  wine — 
Blood  and  burning  turpentine — 

Down,  down  wilh  ihe  Dcnl; 
Down,  down  with  the  Devil; 
Down,  down  with  the  Devil. 

jo  UN  BROWN  1'^  hccn  to  Palestine. 

,_    ,  ,    f         ,    ,  ,     ,    ,  What  did  you  sec  in  Palestine' 

(To  be  suns;  by  a  kadi  r  and  ihoiii*,  the  Iriuoi  T  i 

smU  the  bcxlv  of  the  poem,  while  the  ch»,us  m-  Isawabominations 

ttrrupts  with  the  question)  And  Ci.ulari.nc  swine. 

I  saw  the  sinful  Canaanitcs 

I  ve  been  to  Palestine  Upon  the  sncul)rLtKl  jme> 

What  did  you  see  in  Palestine?  Anc]  spolj  thc  tcmple  vessejs 

I  saw  the  ark  of  Noah-  Anj  drmk  lhc  tcmplc  wmc 

It  was  made  of  pitch  and  pine.  j  saw  Lol>s  Wlfej  a  pl||ar  of  salt 

I  saw  old  Father  Noah  Standing  in  the  brine- 

Asleep  beneath  his  vine.  By  a  weqjmg  W1]iow  tree 

I  saw  Shorn,  Ham  and  Japhet  Beside  the  Dead  Sea. 
Standing  in  a  line. 

I  saw  the  tower  of  Babel  I've  been  to  Palestine. 
In  the  gorgeous  sunrise  shine—  What  did  you  see  in  Palestine? 

By  a  weeping  willow  tree  Cedars  on  Mount  Lebanon, 

Beside  the  Dead  Sea.  Gold  in  Ophir's  mine, 


VACHEL  LINDSAY 

And  a  wicked  generation 

Seeking  for  a  sign, 

And  Baal's  howling  worshipers 

Their  god  with  leaves  entwine. 

And  .  .  . 

I  saw  the  war-horse  ramping 

And  shake  his  forelock  fine — 

By  a  weeping  willow  tree 

Beside  the  Dead  Sea. 

I've  been  to  Palestine. 

What  did  you  see  in  Palestine? 
Old  John  Brown. 
Old  John  Brown. 
I  saw  his  gracious  wife 
Dressed  in  a  homespun  gown. 
I  saw  his  seven  sons 
Before  his  feet  how  down 
And  he  marched  with  his  si  vcn  sons, 
His  wagons  and  goods  and  guns, 
To  his  campfire  by  the  sea, 
By  the  waves  of  Galilee. 

I've  been  to  Palestine 

Whnt  did  you  see  in  Palestine? 
I  saw  the  harp  and  psalt'ry 
Played  for  Old  John  Brown 
I  hoard  the  ram's  horn  blow, 
Blow  for  Old  John  Brown. 
I  saw  the  Bulls  of  Bashan — 
They  cheered  for  Old  John  Brown. 
I  saw  the  big  Behemoth— 
He  cheered  for  Old  John  Brown. 
I  saw  the  big  J,c\iathan — 
He  cheered  for  Old  John  Brown. 
I  saw  the  Angel  Gabriel 
Great  power  to  him  assign. 
I  saw  him  fight  the  Canaanites 
And  set  God's  Israel  free. 
I  saw  him  when  the  war  was  done 
In  his  rustic  chair  recline — 
By  his  campfire  by  the  sea 
By  the  waves  of  Galilee. 

I've  been  to  Palestine. 

What  did  you  sec  in  Palestine? 
Old  John  Brown. 
Old  John  Brown. 
And  there  he  sits 


269 


To  judge  the  world. 
His  hunting  dogs 
At  his  feet  are  curled. 
His  e\cs  half-closed, 
But  John  BIOVMI  sees 
The  ends  of  the  earth, 
The  Day  ol  Doom 
And  his  shot  gun  lies 
Across  his  knees  — 
Old  John  Brown, 
Old  John  Brown. 


THE    DOVE    OF    NEW    SNOW 

I  give  you  a  house  of  snow, 

T  give  you  the  flag  of  the  vvind  above  it, 

T  gnc  you  snow-bushes 

Tn  n  long  row, 

I  gi\e  you  a  snow-dove, 

Ami  ask  you 

To  love  it. 

The  snow-dove  flus  in 

At  the  snow-house  window, 

I  Ic  is  a  ghost 

And  he  casts  no  shadow. 

His  cry  is  the  cry  of  love 

From  the  meadow, 

The  meadow  of  snow  whi  re  he  walked  in  a 

glow, 
The  glittering,  angelic  meadow. 

THE    I-  LOWER -!•  ED    BUFFALOES 

The  flower-fed  burl  aloes  of  the  spring 

In  the  days  of  long  ago, 

Ranged  where  the  locomotives  sing 

And  the  prairie  flowers  lie  low; 

The  tossing,  blooming,  perfumed  grass 

Is  swept  away  by  wheat, 

Wheels  and  wheels  and  wheels  spin  by 

In  the  spring  that  still  is  sweet. 

But  the  flower-fed  buffaloes  of  the  spring 

Left  us  long  ago. 

They  gore  no  more,  they  bellow  no  more, 

They  trundle  around  the  hills  no  more:— 

With  the  Blackfeet  lying  low, 

With  the  Pawnees  lying  low. 


270  VACHEL  LINDSAY 

ABRAHAM    LINCOLN    WALKS     AT    MIDNIGHT 

(In  Springfield,  Illinois) 

It  is  portentous,  and  a  thing  of  state 
That  heie  at  midnight,  in  our  little  town 
A  mourning  figure  walks,  and  will  not  rest, 
Near  the  old  court-house  pacing  up  and  down, 

Or  by  his  homestead,  or  in  shadowed  yards 
He  lingers  where  his  children  used  to  play, 
Or  through  the  market,  on  the  well-worn  stones 
He  stalks  until  the  dawn-stars  burn  away. 

A  bronzed,  lank  man'  His  suit  of  ancient  black, 
A  famous  high  top-hat  and  plain  worn  shawl 
Make  him  the  quaint  great  figure  that  men  love, 
The  prairie-lawyer,  master  of  us  all. 

He  cannot  sleep  upon  his  hillside  now. 
He  is  among  us- — as  in  times  before' 
And  we  who  toss  and  lie  awake  for  long, 
Breathe  d^cp,  and  start,  to  see  him  pass  the  door. 

His  head  is  bowed  He  thinks  of  men  and  kings. 
Yea,  when  the  sick  world  cries,  how  can  he  sleep? 
Too  many  peasants  fight,  they  know  not  why; 
Too  many  homesteads  in  black  terror  weep. 

The  sins  of  all  the  war-lords  burn  his  heart. 
He  sees  the  drcadnaughts  scouring  every  main. 
He  carries  on  his  shawl-wrapped  shoulders  now 
The  bitterness,  the  folly  and  the  pain. 

He  cannot  rest  until  a  spirit-dawn 
Shall  come; — the  shining  hope  of  Europe  free: 
A  league  of  sober  folk,  the  workers'  earth, 
Bringing  long  peace  to  Cornland,  Alp  and  Sea. 

It  breaks  his  heart  that  kings  must  murder  still, 
That  all  his  hours  of  travail  here  for  men 
Seem  yet  in  vain.  And  who  will  bring  white  peace 
That  he  may  sleep  upon  his  hill  again? 

WHEN   LINCOLN   CAME   To  Leaving  log  cabins  behind  him. 

SPRINGFIELD  For  the  mud  streets  of  this  place, 

TTTI  .  0-^11  Sorrow  for  Anne  Rutledge 

When  Lmcoln  came  to  Springfield,  Bumed  in  hig  face 

In  the  ancient  days, 

Queer  were  the  streets  and  sketchy,  He  threw  his  muddy  saddle  bags 

And  he  was  in  a  maze.  On  Joshua  Speed's  floor, 


VACHEL  LINDSAY 

He  took  off  his  old  hat, 
He  looked  around  the  store. 

He  shook  his  long  hair 

On  his  bison-head, 
He  sat  down  on  the  counter, 

"Speed,  I've  moved,"  he  said. 


NANCY    HANKS,    MOTHER    OF 
ABRAHAM    LINCOLN 

"Otif  of  the  cater  came  jotth  mtat.  und  out  of  the 
stiong  came  forth  swtctncs*"  Judges  14'  14 

A  sweet  girl  graduate,  lean  as  a  fawn, 

The  very  whimsy  of  time, 

Read  her  class  upon  Commencement  Day — 

A  trembling  filigree  rhyme. 

The  pansy  that  blooms  on  the  window  sill, 

Blooms  in  exactly  the  proper  place; 

And  she  nodded  just  like  a  pansy  there, 

And  her  poem  was  all  about  bowers  and 

showers, 

Sugary  streamlet  and  mossy  rill, 
All  about  daisies  on  dale  and  hill — 
A.nd  she  was  the  mother  of  Buffalo  Bill. 

Another  girl,  a  cloud-drift  sort, 
Dreamht,  moonlit,  marble-white, 
Light-footed  saint  on  the  pilgrim  shore, 
The  best  since  New  England  iaines  began, 
Was  the  mother  of  Barnum,  the  circus  man 


271 

A  girl  from  Missouri,  snippy  and  vain, 

As  frothy  a  miss  as  any  you  know, 

A  wren,  a  toy,  a  pink  silk  bow. 

The  belle  ot  the  choir,  she  dro\c  insane 

Missoun  deacons  and  all  the  sleek, 

Her  utter  tomfoolery  made  men  weak, 

Till  they  could  not  stand  and  they  could  not 

speak. 

Oh,  queen  of  fifteen  and  sixteen, 
Missouri  sweetened  beneath  lur  reign — 
And  she  was  the  mother  of  bad  Mark  Twain. 

Not  always  are  lions  born  of  lions, 

Rooscvdt  sprang  from  a  palace  of  lace; 

On  the  other  hand  is  the  di//y  tiuth: 

Not  always  is  beauty  born  oi  beauty 

Some  treasures  vuut  in  a  bidden  place 

All  over  the  world  were  thousands  of  belles. 

In  farolTcighle.cn  hundred  and  nine, 

(iirls  of  filteen,  girls  ol  twenty, 

Their  mammas  dressed  them  up  a-plenty — 

Each  garter  was  bnght,  each  stocking  fine, 

But  for  all  their  innocent  devices, 

Their  cheeks  ol  I  nut  and  their  eyes  of  wine, 

And  eaeh  voluptuous  design, 

And  all  sofl  glories  that  we  trace 

In  hm  ope 's  palaces  ol  Lue, 

A  girl  who  slept  in  dust  and  sorrow, 

Nancy  Hanks,  in  a  lost  cabin, 

Nancy  Hanks  had  the  loveliest  face! 


WILD   c  A  i  b 

Here,  as  it  were,  in  the  heart  of  roaring  Rome, 

Here  as  far  as  men  may  get  from  the  soil, 

Here  where  political  lords 

Are  proud  of  oil, 

Oil  in  their  skins, 

Oil  in  their  robber  wells, 

Where  money  and  stone  and  orations  arc  combined, 

Here  in  Washington,  D.  C , 

Here  where  sins  arc  rcfincel  and  over-refined, 

Here  where  they  ape  the  very  walls  of  Rome, 

The  temples  and  pillars  of  Imperial  Rome, 

We  think  of  the  time  the  wilel  cats  kept  awake 

Our  little  camp,  and  filled  our  hearts  with  fright, 

When  porcupine  and  bear-cub  stirred  the  brake, 

And  the  friendliest  wind  seemed  cold  and  impolite. 

We  think  of  our  terror  through  the  camp-fire  night, 

Of  how  we  hoped  to  kiss  the  earth  aright, 


272  VACHEL  LINDSAY 

In  spite  of  fear,  and  hoped  not  all  in  vain, 

Of  how  we  hoped  for  wild  clays,  clean  with  power, 

Of  how  we  sought  the  fine  log-cabin  hour, 

Of  how  we  thought  to  rule 

By  leading  men  to  a  lone  log-cabin  school. 

We  think  of  our  pioneer  American  pride, 

Our  high  defiance  that  has  not  yet  died, 

Here,  as  it  were,  in  the  heart  of  roaring  Rome, 

In  Washington,  D.  C. 

Where  they  ape  the  very  walls  of  Rome. 


THE     APPLE-BARREL     OF     JOHNNY     APPLE SEtD 

On  the  mountain  peak,  called  "(iomg-To-Thc-Sun," 
I  saw  gray  Johnny  Appleseed  at  prayer 
Just  as  the  sunset  made  the  old  earth  fair. 
Then  darkness  came;  in  an  instant,  like  great  smoke, 
The  sun  fell  down  as  though  its  gteat  hoops  broke 
And  dark  rich  apples,  poured  from  the  dim  flame 
Where  the  sun  set,  came  rolling  toward  the  peak, 
A  storm  of  fruit,  a  mighty  cider-reek, 
The  perfume  of  the  orchards  of  the  world, 
From  appk -shadows'  led  and  russtt  domes 
That  tinned  to  clouds  of  glory  and  strange  homes 
Above  the  mountain  tops  (or  cloud-bom  souls  -- 
Reproofs  ior  men  who  build  the  world  like  moles, 
Models  for  nun,  if  they  would  build  the  world 
As  Johnny  Appk  seed  would  have  it  done — 
Praying,  and  reading  the  books  of  Swedcnborg 
On  the  mountain  top  called  "Cjomg-To-The-Sun." 


THE    VOYAGE 

What  is  my  mast?  A  pen. 

What  are  my  sails ?  Ten  crescent  moons. 

What  is  my  sea?  A  bottle  of  ink. 

Where  do  I  go?  To  heaven  again. 

What  do  I  eat?  The  amaranth  flower, 

While  the  winds  through  the  jungles  think  old  tunes. 

I  eat  that  flower  with  ivory  spoons 

While  the  winds  through  the  jungles  play  old  tunes; 

The  songs  the  angels  used  to  sing 

When  heaven  was  not  old  autumn,  but  spring — 

The  bold,  old  songs  of  heaven  and  spring. 


THE    CHINESE    NIGHTINGALE 

(A  Song  in  Chinese  Tapesnies) 

"How,  how,"  he  said.  '* Friend  Chang,"  I  said, 
"San  Francisco  sleeps  as  the  dead — 


VACHEL  LINDSAY  273 

Ended  license,  lust  and  play: 

Why  do  you  iron  the  night  away? 

Your  big  elock  speaks  \\ith  a  deadly  sound. 

With  a  tick  and  a  wail  till  dawn  comes  round, 

While  the  monster  shadows  glower  and  creep, 

What  can  be  better  for  man  than  sleep?" 

"I  will  tell  you  a  seciet,"  Chang  replied; 

"My  bieast  \\ith  vision  is  satisfied, 

And  I  see  green  trees  and  fluttering  wings, 

And  my  eleathless  bud  Irom  Shanghai  sings*' 

Then  he  lit  (i\e  fireciackus  in  a  pan, 

"Pop,  pop/'  said  the  firecrackers,  "eracia  crack." 

lie  lit  a  joss  stiek  long  and  black 

Then  the  proud  gray  joss  in  the  corner  stirred; 

On  his  wrist  appeared  a  gray  small  bud. 

And  this  was  the  song  oi  the-  gray  small  bud: 

"Where  is  the  princess,  loved  forever, 

Who  made  Chang  first  of  the  kings  of  men?" 

Anel  the  joss  in  the  corner  stirred  again; 

Anel  the  carved  dosj,  curlid  in  his  aims,  awoke, 

Barked  loith  a  smoke  eloud  that  whiiUd  and  bioke. 

It  piled  in  a  maze  round  the  uomng  place, 

And  there  on  the  snowy  table  wide 

Stood  a  Chinese  lady  of  high  degree, 

With  a  scorn  I  ul,  wit  thing,  tea-rose  lace.  .  .  . 

Yet  she  put  away  all  form  and  pride , 

And  laid  her  glimmering  ^tll  asiele 

With  a  childlike  smile  lor  Chang  anel  me. 

The  walls  fell  back,  night  was  aflower, 

The  table  gleamed  in  a  moonlit  bovver, 

While  Chang,  with  a  countenance  carved  of  stone, 

Ironed  anel  ironed,  all  alone. 

And  thus  she  sang  to  the  busy  man  Chang: 

"Have  you  forgotten  .  .  . 

Deep  in  the  ages,  long,  long  ago, 

I  was  your  sweetheart,  there  on  the  sand — 

Storm-worn  beach  of  the  Chinese  land? 

We  sold  our  grain  in  the  peacock  town — 

Built  on  the  edge  of  the  sea-sands  brown — 

Built  on  the  edge  of  the  sea -sands  brown.  .  .  . 

When  all  the  world  was  drinking  blood 

From  the  skulls  of  men  and  bulls 

And  all  the  world  had  swords  and  clubs  of  stone, 

We  drank  our  tea  in  China  beneath  the  sacred  spicc-treeSj 

And  heard  the  curled  waves  of  the  harbor  moan 

And  this  gray  bird,  in  Love's  first  spring, 

With  a  bright-bronze  breast  and  a  bronze-brown  wing, 

Captured  the  world  with  his  carol  my. 


VACHEL  LINDSAY 


Do  you  remember,  ages  after, 
At  last  the  world  we  were  born  to  own? 
You  were  the  heir  of  the  yellow  throne  — 
The  world  was  the  field  of  the  Chinese  man 
And  we  were  the  pride  of  the  Sons  of  Han? 
We  copied  deep  books  and  we  carved  in  jade, 
And  wove  blue  silks  in  the  mulberry  shade.  .  .  .' 

"I  remember,  I  remember 
That  Spring  came  on  forever, 
That  Spring  came  on  forever," 
Said  the  Chinese  nightingale. 

My  heart  was  filled  with  marvel  and  dream, 
Though  I  saw  the  western  street-lamps  gleam, 
Though  dawn  was  bringing  the  western  elay, 
Though  Chang  was  a  laundryman  ironing  away.  .  . 
Mingled  there  with  the  streets  and  alleys, 
The  railroael-yard  and  the  clock-tower  bright, 
Demon  clouds  crossed  ancient  valleys; 
Across  wide  lotus-ponds  of  light 
I  marked  a  giant  firefly's  flight. 

And  the  lady,  rosy-red, 

Flourished  her  fan,  her  shimmering  fan, 

Stretched  her  liand  toward  Chang,  and  said: 

"Do  you  remember, 

Ages  after, 

Our  palace  of  heart-red  stone  ? 

Do  you  remember 

The  little  doll-laced  children 

With  their  lanterns  full  of  moon-fire, 

That  came  from  all  the  empire 

Honoring  the  throne?  — 

The  loveliest  fete  and  carnival 

Our  worlel  had  ever  known  ? 

The  sages  sat  about  us 

With  their  heads  bowed  in  their  beards, 

With  proper  meditation  on  the  sight. 

Confucius  was  not  born; 

We  lived  in  those  great  days 

Confucius  later  said  were  lived  aright.  .  .  . 

And  this  gray  bird,  on  that  day  of  spring, 

With  a  bright-bronze  breast  and  a  bronze-brown  wing. 

Captured  the  world  with  his  caroling. 

Late  at  night  his  tune  was  spent. 

Peasants, 

Sages, 

Children, 

Homeward  went, 

And  then  the  bronze  bird  sang  for  you  and  me. 


VACHEL  LINDSAY  275 

We  walked  alone  Our  hearts  were  high  and  free. 
I  had  a  sihery  name,  I  had  a  silvery  name, 
I  had  a  silvery  name — do  you  remember 
The  name  you  cried  beside  the  tumbling  sea?" 

Chang  turned  not  to  the  lady  slim — 

He  bent  to  his  work,  ironing  away; 

But  she  was  arch,  and  knowing  and  gloumg, 

For  the  bird  on  his  shoulder  spoke  for  him. 

"Darling  .  .  .  darling  .  .      darling  .  .  .  darling  .  .  ." 
Said  the  Chinese  nightingale. 

The  great  gray  joss  on  the  rustic  shelf, 

Rakish  and  shrewd,  with  his  collar  awry, 

Sang  impolitely,  as  though  by  himself, 

Drowning  with  his  bellowing  the  nightingale's  cry: 

"Back  through  a  hundred,  hundred  years 

Hear  the  wa\es  as  they  climb  the  piers, 

Hear  the  howl  of  the  silver  seas, 

Hear  the  thunder. 

Hear  the  gongs  of  holy  China 

How  the  waves  and  tunes  combine 

In  a  rhythmic  clashing  wonder, 

Incantation  old  and  fine* 

'Dragons,  dragons,  Chinese  dragons, 

Red  firecrackers,  and  green  firecrackers 

And  dragons,  dragons,  Chinese  dragons.' " 

Then  the  lady,  rosy-red, 

Turned  to  her  lover  Chang  and  said: 

"Dare  you  forget  that  turquoise  dawn 

When  we  stood  in  our  mist-hung  velvet  lawn, 

And  worked  a  spell  this  great  joss  taught 

Till  a  God  of  the  Dragons  was  charmed  and  caught? 

From  the  flag  high  over  our  palace  home 

lie  flew  to  our  feet  in  rainbow-foam — 

A  king  of  beauty  and  tempest  and  thunder 

Panting  to  tear  our  sorrows  asunder. 

A  dragon  of  fair  adventure  and  wonder. 

We  mounted  the  back  of  that  royal  slave 

With  thoughts  of  desire  that  were  noble  and  grave. 

We  swam  down  the  shore  to  the  dragon-mountains, 

We  whirled  to  the  peaks  and  the  fiery  fountains 

To  our  secret  ivory  house  we  were  borne. 

We  looked  down  the  wonderful  wind-filled  regions 

Where  the  dragons  darted  in  glimmering  legions. 

Right  by  my  breast  the  nightingale  sang; 

The  old  rhymes  rang  in  the  sunlit  mist 

That  we  this  hour  regain — 

Song-fire  for  the  brain. 


276  VACHEL  LINDSAY 

When  tny  hands  and  my  hair  and  my  feet  you  kUsed, 
When  you  cried  for  your  heart's  new  pain, 
What  was  my  name  in  the  dragon-mist, 
In  the  rings  of  the  rambowcd  rain?'1 

"Sorrow  and  love,  glory  and  love," 
Sang  the  Chinese  nightingale, 
"Sorrow  and  love,  glory  and  love," 
Said  the  Chinese  nightingale. 

And  now  the  joss  broke  in  with  his  song: 

"Dying  ember,  bird  of  Chang, 

Soul  of  Chang,  do  you  remember? — 

Ere  you  returned  to  the  shining  harbor 

There  were  pirates  by  ten  thousand 

Descended  on  the  town 

In  vessels  mountain-high  and  red  and  brown, 

Moon-ships  that  climbed  the  storms  and  cut  the  skies. 

On  their  prows  were  painted  terrible  bright  eyes. 

But  I  was  then  a  wizaid  and  a  scholar  and  a  priest; 

I  stood  upon  the  sand; 

With  lifted  hand  I  looked  upon  them 

And  sunk  their  vessels  with  my  wizaid  eyes, 

And  the  stately  lacquer-gate  made  safe  again 

Deep,  deep  below  the  bay,  the  seaweed  and  the  spray, 

Embalmed  in  amber  every  pirate  lies, 

Embalmed  in  amber  every  pirate  lies." 

Then  this  did  the  noble  lady  say 

"Bird,  do  you  dream  of  our  home-coming  day 

When  yem  flew  like  a  count r  on  before 

From  the  dragon-peak  to  our  palace -door, 

And  we  drove  the  steed  in  your  singing  path — 

The  ramping  dragon  of  laughter  and  wrath: 

And  found  our  city  all  aglow, 

And  knighted  this  joss  that  decked  it  so? 

There  were  golden  fishes  in  the  purple  river 

And  silver  fishes  and  rainbow  fishes 

There  were  golden  junks  in  the  laughing  river, 

Anel  silver  junks  and  lainbow  junks- 

There  were  ge>lden  lilies  by  the  bay  and  river, 

And  silver  lilies  and  tiger-lilies, 

And  tinkling  wind-bells  in  the  gardens  of  the  town 

By  thej  black -lacquer  gate 

Where  walked  in  state 

The  kind  king  Chang 

And  his  sweetheart  mate.  .  .  . 

With  his  flag-born  dragon 

Anel  his  crown  of  pearl  .  .  .  and  .  .  .  jade, 

Anel  his  nightingale  reigning  in  the  mulberry  shade, 

Anel  sailors  and  soldiers  on  the  sea-sands  brown, 

Anel  priests  who  bowed  them  down  to  your  song — 


VACHEL  LINDSAY  277 

By  the  city  called  Han,  the  peacock  town, 
By  the  city  called  Han,  the  nightingale  town, 
The  nightingale  town." 

Then  sang  the  bird,  so  strangely  gay, 
Fluttering,  fluttering,  ghostly  and  gray, 
A  vague,  unraveling,  final  tune, 
Like  a  long  unwinding  silk  cocoon; 
Sang  as  though  for  the  soul  of  him 
Who  ironed  away  in  that  bower  dim: — 

"I  have  forgotten 

Your  dragons  great, 

Merry  and  mad  and  friendly  and  bold. 
Dim  is  your  proud  lost  palace-gate. 
I  vaguely  know 
There  were  heroes  of  old, 
Troubles  more  than  the  heart  could  hold, 
There  were  wolves  in  the  woods 
Yet  lambs  in  the  fold, 
Nests  in  the  top  of  the  almond  tree.  .  .  . 
The  evergreen  tree  .  .  .  and  the  mulberry  tree.  .  .  , 
Life  and  hurry  and  joy  forgotten, 
Years  and  years  I  but  half-remember  .  .  . 
Man  is  a  torch,  then  ashes  soon, 
May  and  June,  then  dead  December, 
Dead  December,  then  again  June. 
Who  shall  end  my  dream's  confusion? 
Life  is  a  loom,  weaving  illusion.  .  .  . 
I  remember,  I  remember 
There  were  ghostly  vnls  and  lacts.  .  .  . 
In  the  shadowy  bowery  places.  .  .  . 
With  lovers'  ardent  faces 
Bending  to  one  another, 
Speaking  each  his  part. 
They  infinitely  echo 
In  the  red  cave  of  my  heart. 
'Sweetheart,  sweetheart,  sweetheart,' 
They  said  to  one  another. 
They  spoke,  I  think,  of  perils  past. 
They  spoke,  I  think,  of  peace  at  last 
One  thing  I  remember: 
Spring  came  on  forever, 
Spring  came  on  forever," 
Said  the  Chinese  nightingale. 


278 


MELVILLE  CANE 


Melville  Cane 


MELVILLE  CANE  was  born  April  15,  1879,  at  Plattsburg,  New  York.  He  was  edu- 
cated at  Columbia  Grammar  School,  received  his  A  B.  at  Columbia  in  1900, 
LL.B.  in  1903.  At  Columbia  he  was  editor-in-chief  of  the  Literary  Monthly;  he  wrote 
the  lyrics  of  the  Varsity  operetta,  the  music  of  which  was  supplied  by  John  Erskine. 
While  still  in  college  he  contributed  light  verse  to  PucJ{,  Judge,  and  the  more  sedate 
Centwy  and  was  a  reporter  on  the  Neu,  YorJ(  Evening  Post.  Upon  graduation  he 
engaged  in  the  practice  of  law,  specializing  in  the  law  of  copyright  and  the  theater. 

After  an  interval  of  twenty  years,  he  resumed  writing  and  turned  to  a  wholly  un- 
foreseen expression.  Januaty  Gat  den  (1926)  is  the  antithesis  of  the  light  verse  of 
Cane's  youth;  it  is  sensitive  and  unequivocally  serious.  Most  of  the  volume  is  in  a 
free  verse  whose  contours  are  shaped  by  introspection.  A  somber  cast  may  have  ac- 
counted for  the  sparse  enthusiasm  with  winch  it  was  received,  but  it  is  more  diffi- 
cult to  account  for  failure  to  recognize  the  delicacy  of  the  pictorial  effects. 

Cane's  Behind  Dai\  Spaces  (1930)  is  less  impressionistic,  but  what  it  loses  in 
suggestion  it  gains  in  sharpness.  Mixing  "pure"  and  "suspended"  rhyme,  his  tone- 
color  has  grown  ncher;  concentrating  on  instead  of  writing  around  the  object,  he 
has  developed  power  without  resorting  to  force.  Since  1934  Cane  has  written  in  a 
new  genre,  a  type  of  poetry  which  blends  seriousness  and  vets  de  soctete  with  a  nice 
balance. 


SNOW    TOWARD    EVENING 

Suddenly  the  sky  turned  gray, 

The  day, 

Which  had  been  bitter  and  chill, 

Grew  solt  and  still. 

Quietly 

From   some  invisible  blossoming  tree 

Millions  of  petals  cool  and  white 

Drifted  and  blew, 

Lifted  and  flew, 

Fell  with  the  falling  night. 

TREE    IN    DECEMBER 

Frost  has  scaled 
The  still  December  field. 
Over  fern  and  furrow, 
Over  the  quickening 
Within  each  meadowy  acre, 
Frost,  invisibly  thorough, 
Spreads  its  thickening 
Stiffening  lacquer. 

Above  the  field,  beneath  a  sky 
Heavy  with  snow  stirring  to  fly, 


A  tree  stands  alone, 
Bare  of  fruit,  leaves  gone 
Bleak  as  stone. 

Once,  on  a  similar  glazed 

Field,  on  a  similar  tree, 

Dead  as  the  eye  could  see, 

The  first  man,  dazed 

In  the  first  December,  grimly  gazed, 

Never  having  seen 

The  miracle  of  recurring  green, 

The  shining  spectacle  of  rebirth 

Rising  out  of  frozen  earth. 

Snow  fell  and  all  about 

Covered  earth,  and  him  with  doubt. 

More  chill  grew  the  air 

And  his  mute  despair. 

Leaves  that  April  had  uncurled 
Now  were  blown  dust  in  the  world, 
Apples  mellowing  sweet  and  sound 
Now  were  icy  rot  in  the  ground; 
Roses  August  sunned  in  bloom 
Now  were  less  than  lost  perfume. 


MELVILLE  CANE 

Had  he  seen  the  final  hour 

Of  fruit  and  leaf  and  flower? 

Had  the  last  bird  taken  wing, 

Nevermore  to  sing? 

Never  to  fly  in  the  light  of  another  spring? 

The  man  trembled  with  cold,  with  dread, 
Thinking  of  all  things  dead 
And  his  own  earthen  bed. 

Trembling,  he  grew  aware 
Of  a  new  quiet  in  the  air; 
Snow  had  ceased; 
A  ray  came  faintly  through; 
The  wavering  slit  of  blue 
Vaguely  increased. 

Trembling,  the  first  man  gazed 
At  the  glazed 
And  glittering  tree, 
Dead  as  the  eye  could  see. 

Whence  came  the  sight 

To  read  the  sign  aright? 

The  hint,— 

The  glad  intimation,  flashing: 

"Wintry  lains 

Are  blood  in  the  veins, 

Under  snows  and  binding  sleets 

Locked  roots  live,  a  heart  still  beats"? 

From  what  impalpable  breath 

Issued  the  faith, 

The  inner  cry:  "This  is  not  death"? 


DAWN    HAS    YET    TO    RIPPLE    IN 

What  is  this  that  I  have  heard? 
Scurrying  rat  or  stirring  bird? 
Scratching  in  the  wall  of  sleep? 
Twitching  on  the  eaves  of  sleep? 
I  can  hear  it  working  close 
Through  a  space  along  the  house, 
Through  a  space  obscure  and  thm. 
Night  is  swiftly  running  out, 
Dawn  has  yet  to  ripple  in, 
Dawn  has  yet  to  clear  the  doubt, 
Rat  within  or  bird  without. 


279 

HYMN    TO    NIGHT 

Now  it  grows  daik. 

Red  goes 

Out  of  the  rose; 

Out  of  the  lawn 

Green's  withdiawn; 

Lach  buttercup  now  yields 

Its  gold  fiom  blurring  fields; 

Larkspur  and  sky  surrender 

Blue  wonder. 

We  were  dark  \\ithm,  we  relied 

For  our  strength  on  the  nourishing  sun; 

Now  it  is  under  and  gone. 

Now,  as  the  light  grows  duller, 

We,  \vho  had  flourished  on  color, 

Stand,  in  the  ever-deepening  shade, 

Bereft,  dismayed 

We  were  dark  within,  it  was  death 

We  saw,  we  had  never  seen 

Within  the  dark,  we  had  never  known 

The  spark,  the  vital  breath. 

If  only  we  had  known 

That  black  is  nci'lur  loss  nor  lack 

But  holds  the  essential  seed 

Of  mortal  hope  and  ncuH 

Now  sheltering  dusk, 

Shephcul  of  color  and  light  for  dawns  un- 
ending, 
Tends  the  holy  task. 

Praise  be  to  black,  the  benign, 
No  longer  malign, 
Prolonger  of  days' 
Praise  the  preserver  of  shine, 
The  keeper  of  bla/cl 

Praise  Night, 
Forever  praise 
Savior  Night, 
Who  surely  stays 
The  arm  of  time, 
Who  guards  the  flame, 
Who  hoards  the  light. 

Praised  be  the  Night. 


a8o  WALLACE  STEVENS 


Wallace  Stevens 

WALLACE  STEVENS  was  born  in  Reading,  Pennsylvania,  October  2,  1879.  A  stu- 
dent at  Harvard  University  and  New  York  Law  School,  he  was  admitted  to 
the  Bar  in  1904  and  engaged  in  the  general  practice  of  law  in  New  York  City.  In 
1916  he  became  associated  with  the  Hartford  Accident  and  Indemnity  Company, 
of  which  he  became  vice-president  in  1934. 

A  poet  of  peculiar  reticence,  he  kept  himself  from  book  publication  for  a  long 
and  rigorous  time.  Although  many  of  his  poems  appeared  as  early  as  1913,  he  was 
so  self-critical  that  he  refused  to  publish  a  volume  until  1923  when  the  first  edition 
of  Harmonium  appeared.  The  most  casual  reading  of  this  volume  discloses  that 
Stevens  is  a  stylist  of  unusual  delicacy  *  Even  the  least  sympathetic  reader  must  be 
struck  by  the  poet's  hypersensitive  and  ingenious  imagination.  It  is  a  curiously  am- 
biguous world  which  Stevens  paints:  a  world  of  merging  half-lights,  of  finicking 
shadows,  of  disembodied  emotions.  Even  this  last  word  is  an  exaggeration,  for  emo- 
tion itself  seems  absent  from  the  clear  and  often  fiercely  colored  segments  of  the 
poet's  designs. 

Considered  as  a  painter,  Stevens  is  one  of  the  most  original  impressionists  of  the 
times.  He  is  fond  of  little  blocks  of  color,  verbal  mosaics  in  which  syllables  are  used 
as  pigments.  Little  related  to  any  human  struggle,  the  content  of  Harmonium  pro- 
gresses toward  a  sort  of  "absolute"  poetry  which,  depending  on  tone  rather  than  on 
passion,  aims  to  flower  in  an  air  of  pure  estheticism.  His  very  titles — which  deliber- 
ately add  to  the  reader's  confusion  by  having  little  or  no  connection  with  most  of  the 
poems — betray  this  quality:   "Hymn  from  a  Watermelon  Pavilion,"  "The  Paltry 
Nude  Starts  on  a  Spring  Voyage,"  "Frogs  Eat  Butterflies,  Snakes  Eat  Frogs,  Hogs 
Eat  Snakes,  Men  Eat  Hogs."  Such  poems  have  much  for  the  eye,  something  for  the 
ear,  but  little  for  that  central  hunger  which  is  at  the  core  of  all  the  senses. 

Chieftain  Iffucan  of  Azcan  in  caftan 
Of  tan  with  henna  hackles,  halt! 

Thus  Stevens  begins  his  "Bantam  in  Pine- Woods"  and  his  pleasure  in  play- 
ing with  sounds  must  be  evident  to  the  most  perplexed  reader.  Like  Williams, 
to  whose  Collected  Poems  Stevens  furnished  an  introduction,  Stevens  is  interested 
in  things  chiefly  from  their  "unreal"  aspect.  He  is,  nevertheless,  romantic.  A  roman- 
tic poet  nowadays,  says  Stevens,  "happens  to  be  one  who  still  dwells  in  an  ivory 
tower,  but  who  insists  that  life  there  would  be  intolerable  except  for  the  fact  that 
one  has,  from  the  top,  such  an  exceptional  view  of  the  public  dump  and  the  adver- 
tising signs.  .  .  .  He  is  the  hermit  who  dwells  alone  with  the  sun  and  moon,  and 
insists  on  taking  a  rotten  newspaper. '/^That  is  why  Stevens  can  write  of  "The 
Worms  at  Heaven's  Gate"  with  no  disrespect  to  Shakespeare,  make  a  study  in 
esthetics  of  the  contents  of  a  cab,  and  entitle  a  poem  on  death  ("the  finale  of  seem") 
"The  Emperor  of  Ice-Cream." 

"Sunday  Morning"  and  "Sea  Surface  Full  of  Clouds"  are  blends  of  disintegrated 
fantasy  and  fictitious  reality.  These  poems  are  highly  selective  in  choice  of  allusions, 


WALLACE  STEVENS  28r 

inner  harmonies,  and  special  luxuriance  of  sound.  They  burst  into  strange  bloom; 
they  foliate  in  a  region  where  the  esthetic  impulse  encroaches  on  the  reasoning  in- 
tellect. "Thirteen  Ways  of  Looking  at  a  Blackbird"  and  "Domination  of  Black" 
have  a  delicacy  of  design  which  suggests  the  Chinese;  "Peter  Quince  at  the  Clavier" 
and  the  exquisite  "To  the  One  of  Fictive  Music"  (Stevens'  most  obviously  musical 
moment)  reveal  a  distinction  which  places  "this  auditor  of  insects,  this  lutanist  of 
fleas"  as  one  who  has  perfected  a  kind  of  poetry  which  is  a  remarkable,  if  strangely 
hermetic,  art. 

After  a  twelve  years'  silence  Stevens  published  Ideas  of  Order  (1935)  in  a  limited 
edition.  The  format  of  the  book  and  its  private  publication  emphasizes  the  limita- 
tion as  well  as  the  elegance  of  the  contents.  Here,  as  in  Harmonium,  Stevens  seldom 
writes  poetry  about  the  Ding  an  sich,  but  almost  always  about  the  overtones  which 
the  thing  creates  in  his  mind.  Here  the  candid  surface  breaks  into  cryptic  epigrams, 
and  the  scenes  are  recorded  in  a  deft  but  elusive  phrase.  Often  enough  a  poem 
refuses  to  yield  its  meaning,  but  "Academic  Discourse  at  Havana"  and  "The  Idea 
of  Order  at  Key  West"  surrender  themselves  in  an  almost  pure  music. 

The  Man  with  the  Blue  Guitar  (1937),  with  a  bow  to  Picasso,  places  its  emphasis 
on  man  as  artist  and  on  the  complicated  relations  between  art  and  life.  It  is  a  far 
cry  from  the  delight  in  luxuriance  for  its  own  sake  which  Stevens  once  called  "the 
essential  gaudiness  of  poetry."  There  is  little  mischievous  playing  with  the  sound  of 
words,  as  in  the  much-quoted  line  (from  "The  Emperor  of  Ice-Cream")  which  had 
the  "roller  of  big  cigars"  whip 

In  kitchen  cups  concupiscent  curds. 

There  is,  instead,  an  increasing  concern  with  the  problem  of  a  society  in  chaos 
and  the  difficult  "idea  of  order."  Stevens  has  sacrifted  some  of  the  barbaric  piling  up 
of  eflects;  his  work  is  no  longer  a  pageant  of  colors,  sounds,  and  smells.  The  riotous- 
ness  has  been  replaced  by  a  grave  awareness  of  the  plight  of  man.  Without  losing 
the  wit  and  delicacy  of  what  Allen  Tate  has  characterized  as  "floating  images," 
Stevens  has  gained  compassion.  A  new  preoccupation  with  man's  bewilderment  and 
despair  strengthens  Stevens*  later  work.  The  poet's  "place"  is  established  by  critical 
estimates  in  the  Wallace  Stevens  number  of  The  Harvard  Advocate  (December, 
1940),  and  his  own  attitude  is  clearly  pronounced  in  "Asides  on  the  Oboe"  from 
that  issue.  Without  discarding  the  early  resonance  and  free  play  of  associations,  he 
hails  the  provoked  intelligence: 

The  impossible  possible  philosopher's  man, 

The  man  who  has  had  the  time  to  think  enough. 

Stevens  has  never  been  more  pointed  than  in  his  later  poems,  which  are  both 
rhetorical  and 'profound. 

He  is  the  transparence  of  the  place  in  which 
He  is,  and  in  his  poems  we  find  peace. 

But  Stevens  does  not  insist  that  peace  is  to  be  found  in  poetry.  The  "central  man" 
finds  no  panacea  but  "the  sum  of  men  ...  the  central  evil,  the  central  good." 


282 


WALLACE  STEVENS 


ANECDOTE    OF    THE    JAR 

I  placed  a  jar  in  Tennessee, 
And  round  it  was,  upon  a  hill. 
It  made  the  slovenly  wilderness 
Surround  that  hill. 

The  wilderness  rose  up  to  it, 
And   sprawled  around,  no  longer  wild. 
The  jar  was  round  upon  the  ground 
And  tall  and  of  a  port  in  air. 

It  took  dominion  everywhere. 
The  jar  was  gray  and  bare. 
It  did  not  give  of  bird  or  bush, 
Like  nothing  else  in  Tennessee. 


PETER     QUINCE     AT     THE     CLAVIER 


Just  as  my  fingers  on  these  keys 
Make  music,  so  the  self-same  sounds 
On  my  spirit  make  a  music,  too. 

Music  is  feeling,  then,  not  sound; 
And  thus  it  is  that  what  I  feel, 
Here  in  this  room,  desiring  you, 

Thinking  of  your  blue-shadowed  silk, 
Is  music.  It  is  like  the  strain 
Waked  in  the  elders  by  Susanna: 

Of  a  green  evening,  clear  and  warm, 
She  bathed  in  her  still  garden,  while 
The  red-eyed  elders,  watching,  felt 

The  basses  of  their  beings  throb 

In  witching  chords,  and  their  thin  blood 

Pulse  pizzicati  of  Hosanna. 


In  the  green  water,  clear  and  warm, 

Susanna  lay, 

She  searched 

The  touch  of  springs, 

And  found 

Concealed  imaginings. 

She  sighed, 

For  so  much  melody. 

Upon  the  bank,  she  stood 
In  the  cool 


Of  spent  emotions. 

She  felt,  among  the  leaves, 

The  dew 

Of  old  devotions. 

She  walked  upon  the  grass, 

Still  quavering. 

The  winds  were  like  her  maids 

On  timid  feet, 

Fetching  her  woven  scarves, 

Yet  wavering. 

A  breath  upon  her  hand 
Muted  the  night. 
She  turned — 
A  cymbal  crashed, 
And  roaring  horns. 

in 

Soon,  with  a  noise  like  tambourines, 
Came  her  attendant  Byzantines. 

They  wondered  why  Susanna  cried 
Against  the  elders  by  her  side; 

And  as  they  whispered,  the  refrain 
Was  like  a  willow  swept  by  rain. 

Anon,  their  lamps'  uplifted  flame 
Revealed  Susanna  and  her  shame. 

And  then,  the  simpering  Byzantines 
Fled,  with  a  noise  like  tambourines. 


WALLACE  STEVENS  283 

iv  The  cowl  of  Winter,  done  repenting, 

ty  is  momentary  in  the  mind—  So  maidens  die,  to  the  auroral 

fitful  tracing  of  a  portal;  Celebration  of  a  maiden's  choral. 

Bu.  in  the  flesh  it  is  immortal.  Susanna>s  ^  touched  ^  baw(Jy 

Of  those  white  elders;  but,  escaping, 
The  body  dies;  the  body's  beauty  lives.  Left  only  Death's  ironic  scraping. 

So  evenings  die,  in  their  green  going,  Now,  in  its  immortality,  it  plays 

A  wave,  interminably  flowing.  On  the  clear  viol  of  her  memory, 

So  gardens  die,  their  meek  breath  scenting      And  makes  a  constant  sacrament  of  praise 

TO    THE    ONE    OF    FICTIVE    MUSIC 

Sister  and  mother  and  diviner  love, 

And  of  the  sisterhood  of  the  living  dead 

Most  near,  most  clear,  and  of  the  clearest  bloom, 

And  of  the  fragrant  mothers  the  most  dear 

And  queen,  and  of  diviner  love  the  day 

And  flame  and  summer  and  sweet  fire,  no  thread 

Of  cloudy  silver  sprinkles  in  your  gown 

Its  venom  of  renown,  and  on  your  head 

No  crown  is  simpler  than  the  simple  hair. 

Now,  of  the  music  summoned  by  the  birth 
That  separates  us  from  the  wind  and  sea, 
Yet  leaves  us  in  them,  until  earth  becomes, 
By  being  so  much  of  the  things  we  are, 
Gross  effigy  and  simulacrum,  none 
Gives  motion  to  perfection  more  serene 
Than  yours,  out  of  our  imperfections  wrought, 
Most  rare,  or  ever  of  more  kindred  air 
In  the  laborious  weaving  that  you  wear. 

For  so  retentive  of  themselves  are  men 

That  music  is  intensest  which  proclaims 

The  near,  the  clear,  and  vaunts  the  clearest  bloom, 

And  of  all  vigils  musing  the  obscure, 

That  apprehends  the  most  which  sees  and  names, 

As  in  your  name,  an  image  that  is  sure, 

Among  the  arrant  spices  of  the  sun, 

O  bough  and  bush  and  scented  vine,  in  whom 

We  give  ourselves  our  likest  issuance. 

Yet  not  too  like,  yet  not  so  like  to  be 

Too  near,  too  clear,  saving  a  little  to  endow 

Our  feigning  with  the  strange  unlike,  whence  springs 

The  difference  that  heavenly  pity  brings. 

For  this,  musician,  in  your  girdle  fixed 

Bear  other  perfumes.  On  "your  pale  head  wear 

A  band  entwining,  set  with  fatal  stones. 

Unreal,  give  back  to  us  what  once  you  gave: 

The  imagination  that  we  spurned  and  crave. 


WALLACE  STEVENS 


SUNDAY     MORNING 

I 

Complacencies  of  the  peignoir,  and  late 
CoiTee  and  oranges  in  a  sunny  chair, 
And  the  green  freedom  of  a  cockatoo 
Upon  a  rug,  mingle  to  dissipate 
The  holy  hush  of  ancient  sacrifice. 
She  dreams  a  little,  and  she  feels  the  dark 
Encroachment  of  that  old  catastrophe, 
As  a  calm  darkens  among  water-lights. 
The  pungent  oranges  and  bright  green  wings 
Seem  things  in  some  procession  of  the  dead, 
Winding  across  wide  water,  without  sound. 
The  day  is  like  wide  water,  without  sound, 
Stilled  for  the  passing  of  her  dreaming  feet 
Over  the  seas,  to  silent  Palestine, 
Dominion  of  the  blood  and  sepulcher. 

ii 

She  hears,  upon  that  water  without  sound, 
A  voice  that  cries:  "The  tomb  in  Palestine 
Is  not  the  porch  of  spirits  lingering; 
It  is  the  grave  of  Jesus,  where  He  lay." 
We  live  in  an  old  chaos  of  the  sun, 
Or  old  dependency  of  day  and  night, 
Or  island  solitude,  unsponsored,  free, 
Of  that  wide  water,  inescapable. 
Deer  walk  upon  our  mountains,  and  the  quail 
Whistle  about  us  their  spontaneous  cries: 
Sweet  berries  ripen  in  the  wilderness; 
And  in  the  isolation  of  the  sky, 
At  evening,  casual  flocks  of  pigeons  make 
Ambiguous  undulations  as  they  sink, 
Downward  to  darkness,  on  extended  wings. 

in 

She  says:  "I  am  content  when  wakened  birds, 
Before  they  fly,  test  the  reality 
Of  misty  fields,  by  their  sweet  questionings; 
But  when  the  birds  are  gone,  and  their  warm  fields 
Return  no  more,  where,  then,  is  paradise?" 
There  is  not  any  haunt  of  prophecy, 
Nor  any  old  chimera  of  the  grave, 
Neither  the  golden  underground,  nor  isle 
Melodious,  where  spirits  gat  them  home, 
Nor  visionary  South,  nor  cloudy  palm 
Remote  on  heaven's  hill,  that  has  endured 
As  April's  green  endures;  or  will  endure 
Like  her  remembrance  of  awakened  birds, 
Or  her  desire  for  June  and  evening,  tipped 
By  consummation  of  the  swallow's  wings. 


WALLACE  STEVENS  285 

IV 

She  says,  "But  in  contentment  I  still  feel 

The  need  of  some  imperishable  bliss." 

Death  is  the  mother  of  beauty;  hence  from  her, 

Alone,  shall  come  fulfillment  to  our  dreams 

And  our  desires.  Although  she  strews  the  leaves 

Of  sure  obliteration  on  our  paths — 

The  path  sick  sorrow  took,  the  many  paths 

Where  triumph  rang  its  brassy  phrase,  or  love 

Whispered  a  little  out  of  tenderness — 

She  makes  the  willow  shiver  in  the  sun 

For  maidens  who  were  wont  to  sit  and  gaze 

Upon  the  grass,  relinquished  to  their  feet. 

She  causes  boys  to  bring  sweet-smelling  pears 

And  plums  in  ponderous  piles.  The  maidens  taste 

And  stray  impassioned  in  the  littering  leaves. 

v 

Supple  and  turbulent,  a  ring  of  men 

Shall  chant  in  orgy  on  a  summer  morn 

Their  boisterous  devotion  to  the  sun — 

Not  as  a  god,  but  as  a  god  might  be, 

Naked  among  them,  like  a  savage  source. 

Their  chant  shall  be  a  chant  of  paradise, 

Out  of  their  blood,  returning  to  the  sky; 

And  in  their  chant  shall  enter,  voice  by  voice, 

The  windy  lake  wherein  their  lord  delights, 

The  trees,  like  seraphim,  and  echoing  hills, 

That  choir  among  themselves  long  afterward. 

They  shall  know  well  the  heavenly  fellowship 

Of  men  that  perish  and  of  summer  morn — 

And  whence  they  came  and  whither  they  shall  go, 

The  dew  upon  their  feet  shall  manifest. 


DOMINATION     OF    BLACK 

At  night,  by  the  fire, 

The  colors  of  the  bushes 

And  of  the  fallen  leaves, 

Repeating  themselves, 

Turned  in  the  room, 

Like  the  leaves  themselves 

Turning  in  the  wind. 

Yes:  but  the  color  of  the  heavy  hemlocks 

Came  striding. 

And  I  remembered  the  cry  of  the  peacocks8 

The  colors  of  their  tails 
Were  like  the  leaves  themselves 
Turning  in  the  wind, 
In  the  twilight  wind. 


WALLACE  STEVENS 


They  swept  over  the  room, 

Just  as  they  flew  from  the  boughs  of  the  hemlocks 

Down  to  the  ground. 

I  heard  them  cry — the  peacocks. 

Was  it  a  cry  against  the  twilight 

Or  against  the  leaves  themselves 

Turning  in  the  wind, 

Turning  as  the  flames 

Turned  in  the  fire, 

Turning  as  the  tails  of  the  peacocks 

Turned  in  the  loud  fire, 

Loud  as  the  hemlocks 

Full  of  the  cry  of  the  peacocks? 

Or  was  it  a  cry  against  the  hemlocks? 

Out  of  the  window, 

I  saw  how  the  planets  gathered 

Like  the  leaves  themselves 

Turning  in  the  wind. 

I  saw  how  the  night  came, 

Came  striding  like  the  color  of  the  heavy  hemlocks. 

I  felt  afraid. 

And  I  remembered  the  cry  of  the  peacocks. 


SEA    SURFACE    FULL    OF    CLOUDS 

I 

In  that  November  off  Tehuantepec, 

The  slopping  of  the  sea  grew  still  one  night 

And  in  the  morning  summer  hued  the  deck 

And  made  one  think  of  rosy  chocolate 
And  gilt  umbrellas.  Paradisal  green 
Gave  suavity  to  the  perplexed  machine 

Of  ocean,  which  like  limpid  water  lay. 

Who,  then,  in  that  ambrosial  latitude 

Out  of  the  light  evolved  the  moving  blooms, 

Who,  then,  evolved  the  sea-blooms  from  the  clouds 
Diffusing  balm  in  that  Pacific  calm? 
C'etatt  mon  enfant,  mon  bijou,  mon  dme. 

The  sea-clouds  whitened  far  below  the  calm 

And  moved,  as  blooms  move,  in  the  swimming  green 

And  in  its  watery  radiance,  while  the  hue 

Of  heaven  in  an  antique  reflection  rolled 
Round  those  flotillas.  And  sometimes  the  sea 
Poured  brilliant  iris  on  the  glistening  blue. 


WALLACE  STEVENS  287 

ii 

In  that  November  off  Tehuantepec 
The  slopping  of  the  sea  grew  still  one  night. 
At  breakfast  jelly  yellow  streaked  the  deck 

And  made  one  think  of  chop-house  chocolate 
And  sham  umbrellas.  And  a  sham-like  green 
Capped  summer-seeming  on  the  tense  machine 

Of  ocean,  which  in  sinister  flatness  lay. 

Who,  then,  beheld  the  rising  of  the  clouds 

That  strode  submerged  in  that  malevolent  sheen, 

Who  saw  the  mortal  massives  of  the  blooms 
Of  water  moving  on  the  water-floor? 
C'etalt  mon  jrere  du  del,  ma  vie,  mon  or. 

The  gongs  rang  loudly  as  the  windy  blooms 

Hoo-hooed  it  in  the  darkened  ocean-blooms. 

The  gongs  grew  still.  And  then  blue  heaven  spread 

Its  crystalline  pendentives  on  the  sea 
And  the  macabre  of  the  water-glooms. 
In  an  enormous  undulation  fled. 

in 

In  that  November  off  Tehuantepec, 
The  slopping  of  the  sea  grew  still  one  night, 
And  a  pale  silver  patterned  on  the  deck 

Made  one  think  of  porcelain  chocolate 
And  pied  umbrellas.  An  uncertain  green, 
Piano-polished,  held  the  tranced  machine 

Of  ocean,  as  a  prelude  holds  and  holds. 
Who,  seeing  silver  petals  of  white  blooms 
Unfolding  in  the  water,  feeling  sure 

Of  the  milk  within  the  saltiest  spurge,  heard,  then, 
The  sea  unfolding  in  the  sunken  clouds? 
Ohl  C'6tait  mon  cxtase  et  mon  amour. 

So  deeply  sunken  were  they  that  the  shrouds, 
The  shrouding  shadows,  made  the  petals  black 
Until  the  rolling  heaven  made  them  blue, 

A  blue  beyond  the  rainy  hyacinth, 
And  smiting  the  crevasses  of  the  leaves 
Deluged  the  ocean  with  a  sapphire  hue. 


WALLACE  STEVENS 


IV 

In  that  November  off  Tehuantepec 

The  night-long  slopping  of  the  sea  grew  still. 

A  mallow  morning  dozed  upon  the  deck 

And  made  one  think  of  musky  chocolate 
And  frail  umbrellas.  A  too-fluent  green 
Suggested  malice  in  the  dry  machine 

Of  ocean,  pondering  dank  stratagem. 
Who  then  beheld  the  figures  of  the  clouds, 
Like  blooms  secluded  in  the  thick  marine? 

Like  blooms  ?  Like  damasks  that  were  shaken  of! 
From  the  loosed  girdles  in  the  spangling  must. 
Cetalt  ma  jot,  la  nonchalance  divine. 

The  nakedness  would  rise  and  suddenly  turn 
Salt  masks  of  beard  and  mouths  of  bellowing, 
Would  —  But  more  suddenly  the  heaven  rolled 

Its  bluest  sea-clouds  in  the  thinking  green 

And  the  nakedness  became  the  broadest  blooms, 

Mile-mallows  that  a  mallow  sun  cajoled. 


In  that  November  off  Tehuantepec 

Night  stilled  the  slopping  of  the  sea.  The  day 

Came,  bowing  and  voluble,  upon  the  deck, 

Good  clown.  .  .  .  One  thought  of  Chinese  chocolate 
And  large  umbrellas.  And  a  motley  green 
Followed  the  drift  of  the  obese  machine 

Of  ocean,  perfected  in  indolence. 
What  pistache  one,  ingenious  and  droll, 
Beheld  the  sovereign  clouds  as  jugglery 

And  the  sea  as  turquoise-turbaned  Sambo,  neat 
At  tossing  saucers — cloudy-conjuring  sea? 
C6tait  mon  esprit  batard,  I'ignominic. 

The  sovereign  clouds  came  clustering.  The  conch 

Of  loyal  conjuration  trumped.  The  wind 

Of  green  blooms  turning  crisped  the  motley  hue 

To  clearing  opalescence.  Then  the  sea 
And  heaven  rolled  as  one  and  from  the  two 
Came  fresh  transfiguring*  of  freshest  blue. 


WALLACE  STEVENS 


289 


ANNUAL    GAIETY 

In  the  morning  in  the  blue  snow 

The  catholic  sun,  its  majesty, 

Pinks  and  pinks  the  ice-hard  melanchole. 

Wherefore  those  prayers  to  the  moon? 
Or  is  it  that  alligators  lie 
Along  the  edges  of  your  eye 
Basking  in  desert  Florida ? 

Pere  Guzz,  in  heaven,  thumb  your  lyre 
And  chant  the  January  fire 
And  joy  of  snow  and  snow. 


HOMUNCULUS    ET    LA    BELLE 
ETOILE 

In  the  sea,  Biscayne,  there  prinks 
The  young  emerald,  evening  star, 
Good  light  for  drunkards,  poets,  widows, 
And  ladies  soon  to  be  married. 

By  this  light  the  salty  fishes 
Arch  in  the  sea  like  tree-branches, 
Going  in  many  directions 
Up  and  down. 

This  light  conducts 

The  thoughts  of  drunkards,  the  feelings 
Of  widows  and  trembling  ladies, 
The  movements  of  fishes. 


How  pleasant  an  existence  it  is 
That  this  emerald  charms  philosophers, 
Until  they  become  thoughtlessly  willing 
To  bathe  their  hearts  in  later  moonlight, 

Knowing  that  they  can  bring  back  thought 
In  the  night  that  is  still  to  be  silent, 
Reflecting  this  thing  and  that, 
Before  they  sleep! 

It  is  better  that,  as  scholars, 

They  should  think  hard  in  the  dark  cuffs 

Of  voluminous  cloaks, 

And  shave  their  heads  and  bodies. 

It  might  well  be  that  their  mistress 
Is  no  gaunt  fugitive  phantom. 
She  might,  after  all,  be  a  wanton, 
Abundantly  bcautitul,  eager, 

Fecund, 

From  whose  being  by  starlight,  on  sea-coast, 
The  innermost  good  of  their  seeking 
Might  come  in  the  simplest  of  speech. 

It  is  a  good  light,  then,  for  those 
That  know  the  ultimate  Plato, 
Tranquil i zing  with  this  jewel 
The  torments  of  confusion. 


TWO    FIGURES    IN    DENSE    VIOLET    LIGHT 

I  had  as  lief  be  embraced  by  the  porter  at  the  hotel 
As  to  get  no  more  from  the  moonlight 
Than  your  moist  hand. 

Be  the  voice  of  night  and  Florida  in  my  ear. 
Use  dusky  words  and  dusky  images. 
Darken  your  speech. 

Speak,  even,  as  if  I  did  not  hear  you  speaking, 
But  spoke  for  you  perfectly  in  my  thoughts, 
Conceiving  words, 

As  the  night  conceives  the  sea-sounds  in  silence, 
And  out  of  their  droning  sibilants  makes 
A  serenade. 

Say,  puerile,  that  the  buzzards  crouch  on  the  ridge-pole 
And  sleep  with  one  eye  watching  the  stars  fail 
Below  Key  West. 


290  WALLACE  STEVENS 

Say  that  the  palms  are  clear  in  a  total  blue, 
Are  clear  and  are  obscure;  that  it  is  night; 
That  the  moon  shines. 

GALLANT  CHATEAU  There  might  have  been  the  immense  solitude 

Is  it  bad  to  have  come  here  °f  the  Wmd  UP°n  the  curtains' 

And  to  have  found  the  bed  empty?  pkiless  vcrse?  A  few  words  tuncd 

One  might  have  found  tragic  hair,  And  tuned  and  tuned  and  tuned. 

Bitter  eyes,  hands  hostile  and  cold. 

It  is  good.  The  bed  is  empty, 

There  might  have  been  a  light  on  a  book      The  curtains  are  stiff  and  prim  and  still. 
Lighting  a  pitiless  verse  or  two. 

THE    IDEA    OF    ORDER    AT    KEY    WEST 

She  sang  beyond  the  genius  of  the  sea. 
The  water  never  formed  to  mind  or  voice, 
Like  a  body  wholly  body,  fluttering 
Its  empty  sleeves;  and  yet  its  mirnic  motion 
Made  constant  cry,  caused  constantly  a  cry, 
That  was  not  ours  although  we  understood, 
Inhuman,  of  the  veritable  ocean. 

The  sea  was  not  a  mask.  No  more  was  she. 
The  song  and  water  were  not  medleyed  sound, 
Even  if  what  she  sang  was  what  she  heard, 
Since  what  she  sang  she  uttered  word  by  word. 
It  may  be  that  in  all  her  phrases  stirred 
The  grinding  water  and  the  gasping  wind; 
But  it  was  she  and  not  the  sea  we  heard. 

For  she  was  the  maker  of  the  song  she  sang. 
The  ever-hooded,  tragic-gestured  sea 
Was  merely  a  place  by  which  she  walked  to  sing. 
Whose  spirit  is  this?  we  said,  because  we  knew 
It  was  the  spirit  that  we  sought  and  knew 
That  we  should  ask  this  often  as  she  sang. 

If  it  was  only  the  dark  voice  of  the  sea 

That  rose,  or  even  colored  by  many  waves; 

If  it  was  only  the  outer  voice  of  sky 

And  cloud,  of  the  sunken  coral  water-walled, 

However  clear,  it  would  have  been  deep  air, 

The  heaving  speech  of  air,  a  summer  sound 

Repeated  in  a  summer  without  end 

And  sound  alone.  But  it  was  more  than  that, 

More  even  than  her  voice,  and  ours,  among 

The  meaningless  plungings  of  water  and  the  wind, 

Theatrical  distances,  bronze  shadows  heaped 

On  high  horizons,  mountainous  atmospheres 

Of  sky  and  sea. 


WALLACE  STEVENS  297 

It  was  her  voice  that  made 
The  sky  acutest  at  its  vanishing. 
She  measured  to  the  hour  its  solitude, 
She  was  the  single  artificer  of  the  world 
In  which  she  sang.  And  when  she  sang,  the  sea, 
Whatever  self  it  had,  became  the  self 
That  was  her  song,  for  she  was  maker.  Then  we, 
As  we  beheld  her  striding  there  alone, 
Knew  that  there  never  was  a  world  for  her 
Except  the  one  she  sang  and,  singing,  made. 

Ramon  Fernandez,  tell  me,  if  you  know, 
Why,  when  the  singing  ended  and  we  turned 
Toward  the  town,  tell  why  the  glassy  lights, 
The  lights  in  the  fishing  boats  at  anchor  there, 
As  the  night  descended,  tilting  in  the  air, 
Mastered  the  night  and  portioned  out  the  sea, 
Fixing  emblazoned  zones  and  fiery  poles, 
Arranging,  deepening,  enchanting  night. 


Blessed  rage  for  order,  pale  Ramon, 
The  maker's  rage  to  order  words  of  the  sea, 
Words  of  the  fragrant  portals,  dimly-starred, 
And  of  ourselves  and  of  our  origins, 
In  ghostlier  demarcations,  keener  sounds. 

BOUQUET    OF     BELLE    SCAVOIR 

It  is  she  alone  that  matters. 

She  made  it.  It  is  easy  to  say 

The  figures  of  speech,  as  why  she  chose 

This  dark,  particular  rose. 

Everything  in  it  is  herself. 

Yet  the  freshness  of  the  leaves,  the  burn 

Of  the  colors,  are  tinsel  changes, 

Out  of  the  changes  of  both  light  and  dew. 

How  often  had  he  walked 

Beneath  summer  and  the  sky 

To  receive  her  shadow  into  his  mind  .  .  . 

Miserable  that  it  was  not  she. 

The  sky  is  too  blue,  the  earth  too  wide. 
The  thought  of  her  takes  her  away 
The  form  of  her  in  something  else 
Is  not  enough. 

The  reflection  of  her  here,  and  then  there, 
Is  another  shadow,  another  evasion, 


292  WALLACE  STEVENS 

Another  denial.  If  she  is  everywhere, 
She  is  nowhere,  to  him. 

But  this  she  has  made.  If  it  is 
Another  image,  it  is  one  she  has  made. 
It  is  she  that  he  wants,  to  look  at  directly, 
Someone  before  him  to  see  and  to  know. 

ASIDES    ON    THE    OBOE 

The  prologues  are  over.  It  is  question,  now, 
Of  final  belief.  So,  say  that  final  belief 
Must  be  in  a  fiction.  It  is  time  to  choose. 

That  obsolete  fiction  of  the  wide  river  in 

An  empty  land;  the  gods  that  Boucher  killed; 

And  the  metal  heroes  that  time  granulates — 

The  philosophers'  man  alone  still  walks  in  dew, 

Still  by  the  sea-side  mutters  milky  lines 

Concerning  an  immaculate  imagery. 

If  you  say  on  the  hautboy  man  is  not  enough 

Can  never  stand  as  god,  is  ever  wrong 

In  the  end,  however  naked,  tall,  there  is  still 

The  impossible  possible  philosophers'  man, 

The  man  who  has  had  the  time  to  think  enough, 

The  central  man,  the  human  globe,  responsive 

As  a  mirror  with  a  voice,  the  man  of  glass, 

Who  in  a  million  diamonds  sums  us  up. 

2 

He  is  the  transparence  of  the  place  in  which 

He  is,  and  in  his  poems  we  find  peace. 

He  sets  this  peddler's  pie  and  cries  in  summer, 

The  glass  man,  cold  and  numbered,  dewily  cries, 

"Thou  art  not  August  unless  I  make  thee  so." 

Clandestine  steps  upon  imagined  stairs 

Climb  through  the  night,  because  his  cuckoos  call. 

One  year,  death  and  war  prevented  the  jasmine  scent 
And  the  jasmine  islands  were  bloody  martyrdoms. 
How  was  it  then  with  the  central  man?  Did  we 
Find  peace?  We  found  the  sum  of  men.  We  found, 
It  we  found  the  central  evil,  the  central  good. 
We  buried  the  fallen  without  jasmine  crowns. 
There  was  nothing  he  did  not  suffer,  no;  nor  we. 

It  was  not  as  if  the  jasmine  ever  returned. 

But  we  and  the  diamond  globe  at  last  were  one. 

We  had  always  been  partly  one.  It  was  as  we  came 

To  see  him,  that  we  were  wholly  one,  as  we  heard 

Him  chanting  for  those  buried  in  their  blood, 

In  the  forests  that  had  been  jasmine,  that  we  knew 

The  glass  man,  without  external  reference. 


FRANKLIN  P.  ADAMS 


Franklin  P.  Adams 

FRANKLIN  PIERCE  ADAMS,  better  known  to  the  readers  of  his  column  as  F.  P.  A., 
was  born  in  Chicago,  Illinois,  November  15,  1881.  He  attended  the  University 
of  Michigan  and,  after  a  brief  career  as  insurance  agent,  plunged  into  journalism. 
In  1904  he  came  to  New  York,  running  his  section  on  The  Evening  Mail  until 
1914,  when  he  started  "The  Conning  Tower"  for  the  New  York  Tribune,  trans- 
ferring it  some  years  later  to  the  New  York  World  and,  later  still,  to  the  New  York 
Herald  Tribune.  He  is  one  of  the  experts  on  "Information  Please." 

Adams  is  the  author  of  several  volumes  of  a  light  verse  that  is  unusually  skillful. 
Tobogganing  on  Parnassus  (1909),  In  Other  Wotds  (1912),  By  and  Large  (1914), 
and  So  There  (1923)  reveal  a  spirit  which  is  essentially  one  of  mockery.  These 
contain  impudent  paraphrases  of  Horace  and  Propcrtius,  and  a  healthy  satire  that 
runs  sharply  through  the  smooth  lines.  The  best  of  his  later  work  is  in  Christopher 
Columbus  (1930)  and  that  modern  metropolitan  chronicle  The  Diary  of  Out  Own 
Samuel  Pefys  (1935),  a  prose  portrait  of  himself  and  a  period. 


THE    RICH    MAN 

The  rich  man  has  his  motor-car,  His  lot  seems  light,  his  heart  seems  gay; 

His  country  and  his  town  estate.  He  has  a  cinch. 

He  smokes  a  fifty-cent  cigar  ,,      .       ,          ,         ,          t           .   ,. 

And  jeers  at  Fate.  Yet  thou#h  m?  lamP  burns  Iow  and  dim> 

}  Though  I  must  slave  for  livelihood — 

He  frivols  through  the  livelong  day,  Think  you  that  I  would  change  with  him? 

He  knows  not  Poverty,  her  pinch.  You  bet  I  would! 


THOSE    TWO    BOYS 

When  Bill  was  a  lad  he  was  terribly  bad. 

He  worried  his  parents  a  lot; 
He'd  lie  and  he'd  swear  and  pull  little  girls'  hair; 

His  boyhood  was  naught  but  a  blot. 

At  play  and  in  school  he  would  fracture  each  rule — 

In  mischief  from  autumn  to  spring; 
And  the  villagers  knew  when  to  manhood  he  grew 

He  would  never  amount  to  a  thing. 

When  Jim  was  a  child  he  was  not  very  wild; 

He  was  known  as  a  good  little  boy; 
He  was  honest  and  bright  and  the  teacher's  delight — 

To  his  mother  and  father  a  joy. 

All  the  neighbors  were  sure  that  his  virtue'd  endure, 

That  his  life  would  be  free  of  a  spot; 
They  were  certain  that  Jim  had  a  great  head  on  him 

And  that  Jim  would  amount  to  a  lot. 


294  FRANKLIN  P.  ADAMS 

And  Jim  grew  to  manhood  and  honor  and  fame 

And  bears  a  good  name; 
While  Bill  is  shut  up  in  a  dark  prison  cell — 

You  never  can  tell. 


Witter  Bynner 

BYNNER  was  born  in  Brooklyn,  New  York,  August  10,  1881.  He  was 
graduated  from  Harvard  in  1902  and  was  assistant  editor  of  various  periodi- 
cals as  well  as  adviser  to  publishers.  He  spent  much  of  his  time  lecturing  on  poetry, 
traveling  in  the  Orient  and  studying  the  American  Indian.  He  lived  most  of  the 
year  in  Santa  Fe,  New  Mexico. 

Young  Harvard  (1907),  the  first  of  Bynner's  volumes,  was,  as  the  name  implies,  a 
celebration  of  his  Alma  Mater.  The  New  World  (1915)  is  a  far  more  ambitious 
effort.  In  this  extended  poem,  Bynner  sought — almost  too  determinedly — to  translate 
the  ideals  of  democracy  into  verse.  Neither  of  these  volumes  displays  its  author's 
gifts  at  their  best,  for  Bynner  is,  first  of  all,  a  lyric  poet.  Grenstone  Poems  (1917) 
and  A  Canticle  of  Pan  (1920)  reveal  a  natural  singing  voice.  Bynner  harmonizes  in 
many  keys;  transposing,  modulating,  and  shifting  from  one  tonality  to  another. 
This  very  ease  is  his  handicap,  for  Bynner's  facility  leads  him  not  only  to  write  too 
much,  but  in  too  many  different  styles.  Instead  of  a  fusion  of  gifts  we  have,  too 
often,  as  in  Caravan  (1925),  only  a  confusion.  When  Bynner  is  least  dexterous  he  is 
most  ingratiating.  Even  in  The  Beloved  Stranger  (1919),  where  the  borrowed  accents 
of  his  alter  ego  are  only  too  apparent,  one  is  arrested  by  lines  of  charm  and  fluency. 

Under  the  pseudonym  "Emanuel  Morgan"  Bynner  was  co-author  with  Arthur 
Davison  Ficke  (writing  under  the  name  of  "Anne  Kmsh")  of  Spectra  (1916). 
Spectra  was  a  serious  burlesque  of  some  of  the  extreme  manifestations  of  modern 
poetic  tendencies — a  hoax  that  deceived  many  of  the  radical  propagandists  as  well  as 
most  of  the  conservative  critics. 

A  volume  in  collaboration  with  Kiang  Kang-Hu,  The  Jade  Mountain  (1929), 
included  three  hundred  translations  of  poems  of  the  Tang  Dynasty.  Indian  Earth 
(1929)  summons  the  effect  rather  than  the  rhythms  of  the  buffalo  dance  at  Santo 
Domingo,  the  rain  invocation  at  Cochiti,  and  the  Shalako  dance-dramas  in  a  tech- 
nique as  delicate  as  the  brush-strokes  used  to  evoke  the  shifting  scene. 

Eden  Tree  (1931)  is  Bynner's  own  synthesis  of  himself  and  his  work  viewed  in 
retrospect  at  fifty.  The  tone  is  a  troubled  one,  the  approach  is  by  way  of  fantasy 
running  into  phantasmagoria;  but  the  mood  between  clear  perception  and  cloudy 
consciousness  is  skillfully  maintained.  Guest  Bool^  (1935)  is  a  lighter  volume,  a 
series  of  seventy  sonnets  which  "portray"  contemporary  persons  with  more  rhetoric 
than  accuracy.  The  complimentary  poems  are  not  deeply  registered  and  the  satirical 
ones  are  not  sharp  enough  to  be  effective  caricatures.  Bynner,  as  host,  is  too  tactful 
a  recorder;  the  real  poet  is  in  Eden  Tree. 

Selected  Poems  (1936),  edited  by  Robert  Hunt,  is  a  summary  of  Bynner's  best 
work. 


WITTER  BYNNER 


295 


GRASS-TOPS 

What  bird  are  you  in  the  grass-tops? 
Your  poise  is  enough  of  an  answer, 
With  your  wing-tips  like  up-curving  fingers 
Of  the  slow-moving  hands  of  a  dancer  .  .  . 

And  what  is  so  nameless  as  beauty, 
Which  poets,  who  give  it  a  name, 
Are  only  unnaming  forever? — 
Content,  though  it  go,  that  it  came. 


VOICES 

O  there  were  lights  and  laughter 
And  the  motions  to  and  fro 

Of  people  as  they  enter 
And  people  as  they  go  ... 

And  there  were  many  voices 

Vying  at  the  feast, 
But  mostly  I  remember 

Yours — who  spoke  the  least. 


A    FARMER    REMEMBERS    LINCOLN 

"Lincoln?— 

Well,  I  was  in  the  old  Second  Maine, 

The  first  regiment  in  Washington  from  the  Pine  Tree  State. 
Of  course  I  didn't  get  the  butt  of  the  clip; 
We  was  there  for  guardin'  Washington — 
We  was  all  green. 

"I  ain't  never  ben  to  the  theayter  in  my  life — 
I  didn't  know  how  to  behave. 
I  ain't  never  ben  since. 

I  can  see  as  plain  as  my  hat  the  box  where  he  sat  in 
When  he  was  shot. 
I  can  tell  you,  sir,  there  was  a  panic 

When  we  found  our  President  was  in  the  shape  he  was  in! 
Never  saw  a  soldier  in  the  world  but  what  liked  him. 

"Yes,  sir.  His  looks  was  kind  o'  hard  to  forget. 
He  was  a  spare  man; 
An  old  farmer. 

Everything  was  all  right,  you  know, 
But  he  wasn't  a  smooth-appearin'  man  at  all — 
Not  in  no  ways; 
Thin-faced,  long-necked, 
And  a  swellin'  kind  of  a  thick  lip  like. 

"And  he  was  a  jolly  old  fellow — always  cheerful; 
He  wasn't  so  high  but  the  boys  could  talk  to  him  their  own  ways. 
While  I  was  servin'  at  the  Hospital 
He'd  come  in  and  say,  'You  look  nice  in  here/ 
Praise  us  up,  you  know. 
And  he'd  bend  over  and  talk  to  the  boys — 
And  he'd  talk  so  good  to  'em — so  close — 
That's  why  I  call  him  a  farmer. 

I  don't  mean  that  everything  about  him  wasn't  all  right,  you  understand, 
It's  just — well,  I  was  a  farmer — 
And  he  was  my  neighbor,  anybody's  neighbor. 
I  guess  even  you  young  folks  would  'a*  liked  him." 


296  WITTER  BYNNER 

TRAIN-MATES 

Outside  hove  Shasta,  snowy  height  on  height, 
A  glory;  but  a  negligible  sight, 
For  you  had  often  seen  a  mountain-peak 
But  not  my  paper.  So  we  came  to  speak  .  .  . 
A  smoke,  a  smile, — a  good  way  to  commence 
The  comfortable  exchange  of  difference! 
You  a  young  engineer,  five  feet  eleven, 
Forty-five  chest,  with  football  in  your  heaven, 
Liking  a  road-bed  newly  built  and  clean, 
Your  fingers  hot  to  cut  away  the  green 
Of  brush  and  flowers  that  bring  beside  a  track 
The  kind  of  beauty  steel  lines  ought  to  lack, — 
And  I  a  poet,  wistful  of  my  betters, 
Reading  George  Meredith's  high-hearted  letters, 
Joining  betwecnwhiles  in  the  mingled  speech 
Of  a  drummer,  circus-man,  and  parson,  each 
Absorbing  to  himself — as  I  to  me 
And  you  to  you — a  glad  identity! 

After  a  time,  when  others  went  away, 
A  curious  kinship  made  us  choose  to  stay, 
Which  I  could  tell  you  now;  but  at  the  time 
You  thought  of  baseball  teams  and  I  of  rhyme, 
Until  we  found  that  we  were  college  men 
And  smoked  more  easily  and  smiled  again; 
And  I  from  Cambridge  cried,  the  poet  still: 
"I  know  your  fine  Greek  theater  on  the  hill 
At  Berkeley'"  With  your  happy  Grecian  head 
Upraised,  "I  never  saw  the  place,"  you  said — 
"Once  I  was  free  of  class,  I  always  went 
Out  to  the  field." 

• 

Young  engineer,  you  meant 
As  fair  a  tribute  to  the  better  part 
As  ever  I  did.  Beauty  of  the  heart 
Is  evident  in  temples.  But  it  breathes 
Alive  where  athletes  quicken  curly  wreaths, 
Which  are  the  lovelier  because  they  die. 
You  are  a  poet  quite  as  much  as  I, 
Though  differences  appear  in  what  we  do, 
And  I  an  athlete  quite  as  much  as  you. 
Because  you  half-surmise  my  quarter-mile 
And  I  your  quatrain,  we  could  greet  and  smile. 
Who  knows  but  we  shall  look  again  and  find 
The  circus-man  and  drummer,  not  behind 
But  leading  in  our  visible  estate — 
As  discus-thrower  and  as  laureate? 


WITTER  BYNNER 


297 


THE    SINGING    HUNTSMAN 

The  huntswoman-moon  was  my  mother, 
And  the  song-man,  Apollo,  my  sire; 
And  I  know  either  trick  like  the  other, 
The  trick  of  the  bow  and  the  lyre. 

And  when  beauty  darts  by  me  or  lingers, 
When  it  opens  or  folds  its  wing, 
On  bow  and  on  lyre  are  my  fingers, 
And  I  shoot,  and  I  sing. 


AGAINST    THE    COLD 

Autumn  is  only  winter  in  disguise, 
A  summer-skeleton  in  scarlet  cover. 


Now  is  no  spring  nor  summer  in  the  skies 
Nor  early  song  of  nightingale  or  plover. 
Bones  are  the  fingers  now  that  touch  the 

grass 

And  turn  the  edge  of  timothy  and  clover; 
Bones  are  the  feet  that  on  the  highway  pass 
And  tread  the  weeds  and  turn  the  gravel 

over. 
Bear  backward,  then,  within  the  warming 

walls 

Of  stone  or  wood  or  clay,  no  more  a  rover 
Beside  the  meadowlands  and  waterfalls 
But  an  abashed  and  reverential  lover — 
And  build  of  better  stuff  than  spring,  the 

old 
Unceasing  fortitude  against  the  cold. 


James  Oppenhelm 


JAMES  OPPENHEIM  was  born  in  St.  Paul,  Minnesota,  May  24,  1882.  Two  years  later 
his  family  moved  to  New  York  City,  where  he  lived  most  of  his  life.  After  a 
public  school  education,  he  took  special  courses  at  Columbia  University  (1901-3)  and 
engaged  in  settlement  work,  acting  in  the  capacity  of  assistant  head  worker  of  the 
Hudson  Guild  Settlement,  and  superintendent  of  the  Hebrew  Technical  School  for 
Girls  (1904-7).  His  studies  and  experiences  on  the  lower  East  Side  of  New  York 
furnished  material  for  his  first  book  of  short  stories,  Doctor  Rast  (1909). 

Oppenheim's  initial  venture  as  a  poet,  Monday  Morning  and  Other  Poems  (1909), 
was  imitative  and  experimental.  In  spite  of  its  obvious  indebtedness  to  Whitman, 
most  of  the  verses  are  in  formal  meters  and  regular  (though  ragged)  rhyme.  Beauty 
is  sought,  but  seldom  captured  here;  the  message  is  coughed  out  between  bursts  of 
eloquence  and  fits  of  stammering. 

Songs  for  the  New  Age  (1914)  made  Oppenheim  his  own  liberator.  The  speech, 
echoing  the  Whitmanic  sonority,  develops  a  music  that  is  strangely  Biblical  and  yet 
native.  It  is  the  expression  of  an  ancient  people  reacting  to  modernity,  of  a  race  in 
solution.  This  volume,  like  all  of  Oppcnhcim's  subsequent  work,  is  analysis  in  terms 
of  poetry;  a  slow  searching  beneath  the  musical  surface  attempts  to  diagnose  the 
tortured  soul  of  man  and  the  twisted  times  he  lives  in.  The  old  Isaiah  note,  with 
a  new  introspection,  rises  out  of  such  poems  as  "The  Slave,"  "We  Dead,"  "Tasting 
the  Earth";  the  music  and  imagery  of  the  Psalms  are  heard  in  "The  Flocks,"  and 
"The  Runner  in  the  Skies." 

War  and  Laughter  (1916)  holds  much  of  its  predecessor's  fervor.  The  Semitic 
blend  of  delight  and  disillusion — that  quality  which  hates  the  world  for  its  hypocri- 
sies and  loves  it  in  spite  of  them — is  revealed  in  "Greed,"  in  the  ironic  "Report  on 
the  Planet  Earth"  and  the  affirmative  "Laughter." 

The  Boof(  of  Self  (1917)  is  an  imperfect  fusion  Oppenheim's  preoccupation  with 


298  JAMES  OPPENHEIM 

analytical  psychology  mars  the  effect  of  the  long  passages  which  contain  flashes  of 
clairvoyance.  Most  of  it  reads  like  Leaves  of  Grass  translated  by  Freud.  The  Solitary 
(1919)  is  a  stride  forward;  its  major  section,  a  long  symbolic  poem  called  "The  Sea," 
breathes  the  same  note  that  was  the  burden  of  the  earlier  books:  "We  are  flesh  on 
the  way  to  godhood." 

The  Mystic  Warrior  (1921)  is  an  autobiography  in  free  verse.  It  is  a  chronicle  of 
inhibition,  the  effort  of  an  artist  to  find  himself  and  freedom  in  a  rigid,  mechanistic 
environment.  Oppenheim's  studies  and  practice  in  psychoanalysis  are,  again,  some- 
what too  evident  in  this  volume;  the  chief  figure  emerges  as  a  weak  and  groping 
stumbler  towards  immensities,  a  figure  lost  between  self-contempt  and  over-reaching 
egotism.  Golden  Bitd  (1923)  is  a  return  to  Oppenheim's  less  personal  mysticism.  It 
suffers  from  loquacity  and  a  curious  "yearning  back,"  but  some  of  the  poems  (such 
as  "Hebrews")  rise  from  a  rather  cloying  catalog  of  perished  beauty. 

The  Sea,  Oppenheim's  most  comprehensive  volume,  was  published  in  1923.  It 
includes  the  best  of  all  his  previous  books  of  poetry  with  the  addition  of  several 
"connecting"  verses. 

Besides  his  poetry,  Oppenheim  has  published  several  volumes  of  short  stories,  five 
novels,  and  two  poetic  plays.  During  1916-17  he  was  editor  of  that  provoking  but 
short-lived  magazine,  The  Seven  Arts.  Later  he  tried  hack-work;  he  prepared  a 
"popular"  handbook  on  psychoanalysis  and  another,  American  Types  (1931),  of  a 
similar  nature.  He  died,  after  a  severe  illness,  August  4,  1932. 


THE    SLAVE 

They  set  the  slave  free,  striking  off  his  chains 
Then  he  was  as  much  of  a  slave  as  ever. 

He  was  still  chained  to  servility, 

He  was  still  manacled  to  indolence  and  sloth, 

He  was  still  bound  by  fear  and  superstition, 

By  ignorance,  suspicion,  and  savagery  .  .  . 

His  slavery  was  not  in  the  chains, 

But  m  himself.  .  .  . 

They  can  only  set  free  men  free  .  .  . 
And  there  is  no  need  of  that: 
Free  men  set  themselves  free. 


THE    RUNNER    IN    THE    SKIES 

Who  is  the  runner  in  the  skies, 

With  her  blowing  scarf  of  stars, 

And  our  Earth  and  sun  hovering  like  bees  about  her  blossoming  heart? 

Her  feet  are  on  the  winds,  where  space  is  deep, 

Her  eyes  are  nebulous  and  veiled; 

She  hurries  through  the  night  to  a  far  lover  .  .  . 


JAMES  OPPENHEIM  299 

THE    LINCOLN    CHILD 

Clearing  in  the  forest, 
In  the  wild  Kentucky  forest, 
And  the  stars,  wintry  stars  strewn  above! 
O  Night  that  is  the  starriest 
Since  Earth  began  to  roll — 
For  a  Soul 
Is  born  out  of  Love! 

Mother  love,  father  love,  love  of  Eternal  God — 
Stars  have  pushed  aside  to  let  him  through — 
Through  heaven's  sun-sown  deeps 
One  sparkling  ray  of  God 
Strikes  the  clod — 

(And  while  an  angel-host  through  wood  and  clearing  sweeps!) 
Born  in  the  wild 
The  Child- 
Naked,  ruddy,  new, 
Wakes  with  the  piteous  human  cry  and  at  the  mother-heart  sleeps,. 

To  the  mother  wild  berries  and  honey, 

To  the  father  awe  without  end, 

To  the  child  a  swaddling  of  flannel — 

And  a  dawn  rolls  sharp  and  sunny 

And  the  skies  of  winter  bend 

To  see  the  first  sweet  word  penned 

In  the  godhest  human  annal. 

Frail  Mother  of  the  Wilderness, 
How  strange  the  world  shines  in 
And  the  cabin  becomes  chapel 
And  the  baby  lies  secure — 
Sweet  Mother  of  the  Wilderness, 
New  worlds  for  you  begin, 
You  have  tasted  of  the  apple 
That  giveth  wisdom  sure.  .  .  . 

Soon  in  the  wide  wilderness, 

On  a  branch  blown  over  a  creek, 

Up  a  trail  of  the  wild  coon, 

In  a  lair  of  the  wild  bee, 

The  rugged  boy,  by  danger's  stress, 

Learnt  the  speech  the  wild  things  speak, 

Learnt  the  Earth's  eternal  tune 

Of  strife-engendered  harmony — 

Went  to  school  where  Life  itself  was  master, 

Went  to  church  where  Earth  was  minister — 

And  in  Danger  and  Disaster 

Felt  his  future  manhood  stir! 


3oo  JAMES  OPPENHEIM 

All  about  him  the  land, 

Eastern  cities,  Western  prairie, 

Wild,  immeasurable,  grand; 

But  he  was  lost  where  blossomy  boughs  make  airy 

Bowers  in  the  forest,  and  the  sand 

Makes  brook-water  a  clear  mirror  that  gives  back 

Green  branches  and  trunks  black 

And  clouds  across  the  heavens  lightly  fanned. 

Yet  all  the  Future  dreams,  eager  to  waken, 

Within  that  woodland  soul — 

And  the  bough  of  boy  has  only  to  be  shaken 

That  the  fruit  drop  whereby  this  Earth  shall  roll 

A  little  nearer  God  than  ever  before. 

Little  recks  he  of  war, 

Of  national  millions  waiting  on  his  word — 

Dreams  still  the  Event  unstirred 

In  the  heart  of  the  boy,  the  little  babe  of  the  wild— - 

But  the  years  hurry  and  the  tide  of  the  sea 

Of  Time  Hows  fast  and  ebbs,  and  he,  even  he, 

Must  leave  the  wilderness,  the  wood-haunts  wild. 

Soon  shall  the  cyclone  of  Humanity 

Tearing  through  Earth  suck  up  this  little  child 

And  whirl  him  to  the  top,  where  he  shall  be 

Riding  the  storm-column  in  the  lightning-stroke, 

Calm  at  the  peak,  while  down  below  worlds  rage, 

And  Earth  goes  out  in  blood  and  battle-smoke, 

And  leaves  him  with  the  Sun — an  epoch  and  an  age! 

And  lo,  as  he  grew  ugly,  gaunt, 
And  gnarled  his  way  into  a  man, 
What  wisdom  came  to  feed  his  want, 
What  worlds  came  near  to  let  him  scan* 
And  as  he  fathomed  through  and  through 
Our  dark  and  sorry  human  scheme, 
He  knew  what  Shakespeare  never  knew, 
What  Dante  never  dared  to  dream — 
That  Men  are  one 
Beneath  the  sun, 

And  before  God  are  equal  souls — 
This  truth  was  his, 
And  this  it  is 

That  round  him  such  a  glory  rolls — 
For  not  alone  he  knew  it  as  a  truth, 
lie  made  it  of  his  blood,  and  of  his  brain — 
He  crowned  it  on  the  day  when  piteous  Booth 
Sent  a  whole  land  to  weeping  with  world  pain- 
When  a  black  cloud  blotted  the  sun 
And  men  stopped  in  the  streets  to  sob, 
To  think  Old  Abe  was  dead. 
Dead,  and  the  day's  work  still  undone, 
Dead,  and  war's  ruining  heart  athrob, 


JAMES  OPPENHE1M  301 

And  earth  with  fields  of  carnage  freshly  spread — 

Millions  died  fighting, 

But  in  this  man  we  mourned 

Those  millions,  and  one  other — 

And  the  States  today  uniting, 

North  and  South, 

East  and  West, 

Speak  with  a  people's  mouth 

A  rhapsody  of  rest 

To  him  our  beloved  best, 

Our  big,  gaunt,  homely  brother — 

Our  huge  Atlantic  coast-storm  in  a  shawl, 

Our  cyclone  in  a  smile — our  President, 

Who  knew  and  loved  us  all 

With  love  more  eloquent 

Than  his  own  words — with  Love  that  in  real  deeds  was  spent.  .  .  c 

O  living  God,  O  Thou  who  living  art, 

And  real,  and  near,  draw,  as  at  that  babe's  birth, 

Into  our  souls  and  sanctify  our  Earth — 

Let  down  Thy  strength  that  we  endure 

Mighty  and  pure 

As  mothers  and  fathers  of  our  own  Lincoln-child — 

Make  us  more  wise,  more  true,  more  strong,  more  mild, 

That  we  may  day  by  day 

Rear  this  wild  blossom  through  its  soft  petals  of  clay; 

That  hour  by  hour 

We  may  endow  it  with  more  human  power 

Than  is  our  own — 

That  it  may  reach  the  goal 

Our  Lincoln  long  has  shown! 

O  Child,  flesh  of  our  flesh,  bone  of  our  bone, 

Soul  torn  from  out  our  Soul! 

May  you  be  great,  and  pure,  and  beautiful — 

A  Soul  to  search  this  world 

To  be  a  father,  brother,  comrade,  son, 

A  toiler  powerful; 

A  man  whose. toil  is  done 

One  with  God's  Law  above: 

Work  wrought  through  Love! 


NIGHT    NOTE 

A  little  moon  was  restless  in  Eternity 

And,  shivering  beneath  the  stars, 

Dropped  in  the  hiding  arms  of  the  western  hill. 

Night's  discord  ceased: 

The  visible  universe  moved  in  an  endless  rhythm: 

The  wheel  of  the  heavens  turned  to  the  pulse  of  a  cricket  in  the  grass. 


J02  JAMES   OPPENHEIM 

TASTING    THE    EARTH 

In  a  dark  hour,  tasting  the  Earth. 

As  I  lay  on  my  couch  in  the  muffled  night,  and  the  rain  lashed  my  window, 

And  my  forsaken  heart  would  give  me  no  rest,  no  pause  and  no  peace, 

Though  I  turned  my  face  far  from  the  wailing  of  my  bereavement.  .  .  . 

Then  I  said:  I  will  eat  of  this  sorrow  to  its  last  shred, 

I  will  take  it  unto  me  utterly, 

I  will  see  if  I  be  not  strong  enough  to  contain  it.  ... 

What  do  I  fear?  Discomfort? 

How  can  it  hurt  me,  this  bitterness"5 

The  miracle,  then! 

Turning  toward  it,  and  giving  up  to  it, 

I  found  it  deeper  than  my  own  self.  .  .  . 

O  dark  great  mother-globe  so  close  beneath  me  .  .  . 

It  was  she  with  her  inexhaustible  grief, 

Ages  of  blood-drenched  jungles,  and  the  smoking  of  craters,  and  the  roar  of 
tempests, 

And  moan  of  the  forsaken  seas, 

It  was  she  with  the  hills  beginning  to  walk  in  the  shapes  of  the  dark-hearted 
animals, 

It  was  she  risen,  dashing  away  tears  and  praying  to  dumb  skies,  in  the  pomp- 
crumbling  tragedy  of  man  .  .  . 

It  was  she,  container  of  all  griefs,  and  the  buried  dust  of  broken  hearts, 

Cry  of  the  chnsts  and  the  lovers  and  the  child-stripped  mothers, 

And  ambition  gone  down  to  defeat,  and  the  battle  overborne, 

And  the  dreams  that  have  no  waking.  .  .  . 

My  heart  became  her  ancient  heart: 

On  the  food  of  the  strong  I  fed,  on  dark  strange  life  itself* 

Wisdom-giving  and  somber  with  the  unremitting  love  of  ages.  .  .  . 

There  was  dank  soil  m  my  mouth, 

And  bitter  sea  on  my  lips, 

In  a  dark  hour,  tasting  the  Earth. 


HEBREWS 

I  come  of  a  mighty  race  ...  I  come  of  a  very  mighty  race  .  .  . 

Adam  was  a  mighty  man,  and  Noah  a  captain  of  the  moving  waters, 

Moses  was  a  stern  and  splendid  king,  yea,  so  was  Moses  .  .  . 

Give  me  more  songs  like  David's  to  shake  my  throat  to  the  pit  of  the  belly, 

And  let  me  roll  in  the  Isaiah  thunder  .  .  . 

Ho!  the  mightiest  of  our  young  men  was  born  under  a  star  in  midwinter  .  .  c 

His  name  is  written  on  the  sun  and  it  is  frosted  on  the  moon  .  .  . 

Earth  breathes  him  like  an  eternal  spring;  he  is  a  second  sky  over  the  Earth. 

Mighty  race!  mighty  race! — my  flesh,, my  flesh 

Is  a  cup  of  song, 

Is  a  well  in  Asia  .  .  . 


JAMES  OPPENHEIM  303 

I  go  about  with  a  dark  heart  where  the  Ages  sit  in  a  divine  thunder  .  .  . 

My  blood  is  cymbal-clashed  and  the  anklets  of  the  dancers  tinkle  there  .  .  . 

Harp  and  psaltery,  harp  and  psaltery  make  drunk  my  spirit  .  .  . 

I  am  of  the  terrible  people,  I  am  of  the  strange  Hebrews  .  .  . 

Amongst  the  swarms  fixed  like  the  rooted  stars,  my  folk  is  a  streaming  Comet, 

The  Wanderer  of  Eternity,  the  eternal  Wandering  Jew  .  .  . 

Ho!  we  have  turned  against  the  mightiest  of  our  young  men 

And  in  that  denial  we  have  taken  on  the  Christ, 

And  the  two  thieves  beside  the  Christ, 

And  the  Magdalen  at  the  feet  of  the  Christ, 

And  the  Judas  with  thirty  silver  pieces  selling  the  Christ, 

And  our  twenty  centuries  in  Europe  have  the  shape  of  a  Cross 

On  which  we  have  hung  in  disaster  and  glory  .  .  . 

Mighty  race!  mighty  race! — my  flesh,  my  flesh 
Is  a  cup  of  song, 
Is  a  well  in  Asia. 


Lola  Ridge 

L)LA  RIDGE  was  born  in  Dublin,  Ireland,  leaving  there  in  infancy  and  spending  her 
childhood  in  Sydney,  Australia.  After  living  some  years  in  New  Zealand,  she  re- 
turned to  Australia  to  study  art.  In  1907,  she  came  to  the  United  States,  and  sup- 
ported herself  for  three  years  by  writing  fiction  for  popular  magazines.  She  stopped 
this  work  only,  as  she  says,  "because  I  found  I  would  have  to  do  so  if  I  wished  to 
survive  as  an  artist."  For  several  years  she  earned  her  living  in  a  variety  of  ways — 
as  organizer  for  an  educational  movement,  as  advertisement  writer,  as  illustrator, 
artist's  model,  factory-worker.  In  1918,  The  New  Republic  published  her  long  poem, 
"The  Ghetto,"  and  Miss  Ridge,  until  then  totally  unknown,  became  the  "discovery" 
of  the  year.  She  died  m  Brooklyn  on  May  19,  1941. 

Her  volume,  The  Ghetto  and  Other  Poems  (1918),  contains  one  poem  that  is 
brilliant,  several  that  are  powerful,  and  none  that  is  mediocre.  The  title-poem  is  its 
pinnacle;  it  is  a  poem  of  the  city,  of  its  sodden  brutalities,  its  sudden  beauties.  Swift 
figures  shine  from  these  lines,  like  barbaric  colors  leaping  out  of  darkness;  images 
are  surprising  but  never  strained;  confusion  is  given  clarity.  In  the  other  poems — 
especially  in  "The  Song  of  Iron,"  "Faces"  and  the  poignant  portrait  "Marie" — the 
same  dignity  is  maintained,  though  with  somewhat  less  magic. 

Sun-Up  (1920)  and  Red  Flag  (1924)  are  less  integrated,  more  frankly  experi- 
mental. But  the  same  vibrancy  and  restrained  power  that  distinguished  her  first  book 
are  manifest  here.  Her  delineations  are  sensitive,  her  phrases  vivid  yet  natural.  In 
spite  of  an  overuse  of  similes,  she  accomplishes  the  maximum  in  effect  with  a  mini- 
mum of  effort. 

Firehead  (1929)  is  a  narrative  poem,  the  time  and  scene  of  which  are  the  day  of 
the  Crucifixion.  Making  John,  Peter  and  the  two  Marys  interpret  the  significance  of 
the  event,  Miss  Ridge  constructed  a  poem  of  dtrpih  and  urgent  penetration.  If 


304  LOLA  RIDGE 

anything,  the  effort  is  too  grandiose;  the  reader  loses  sight  of  the  central  figure  in  a 
bright  cloud  of  metaphors.  Phrases  rise,  not  from  the  core  of  the  tragedy,  but  from 
the  prodded  literary  mind;  the  Passion  is  lost  in  a  panorama.  And  yet  there  is  a 
finality  in  Fnehcad  beyond  the  finality  of  phrase.  Passages  move  in  and  out  of  the 
large  design  taking  possession  of  the  imagination,  passages  that  are  music  visualized 
and  "time  made  audible  " 

In  Dance  of  Fuc  (1935)  her  gift  of  unusual  but  accurate  image,  her  undcviating 
integrity,  and  her  passion  tor  social  justice  are  fused  and  concentrated  in  the  clean  fire 
which  she  celebrates.  Miss  Ridge  was  a  revolutionary  in  a  technical  as  well  as  a  spir- 
itual sense;  yet  it  is  a  curious  thing  that,  whereas  her  first  published  work  was 
wholly  in  free  verse,  Dance  of  Fttc  is  cast  almost  entirely  in  regular  patterns,  the 
peak  of  the  volume  being  the  three-part  section  "Via  Ignis,1'  a  series  of  twenty- 
eight  sonnets.  These  sonnets  reveal  a  discipline  which  makes  them  worthy  to  stand 
with  the  best  sonnet  cycles  produced  in  this  period. 

PASSAGES     FROM     "  T  II  E    GHETTO" 

Old  Sodos  no  longer  makes  saddles. 

He  has  forgotten  how  ,f .  . 

Time  spins  like  a  crazy  dial  m  his  brain, 

And  night  by  night 

I  see  the  love-gesture  of  his  arm 

In  its  green-greasy  coat-sleeve 

Circling  the  Book, 

And  the  candles  gleaming  starkly 

On  the  blotchccl-paper  whiteness  of  his  face, 

Like  a  miswntten  psalm  .  .  . 

Night  by  night 

I  hear  his  lifted  praise, 

Like  a  broken  whinnying 

Before  the  Lord's  shut  gate. 

+ 

Lights  go  out 

And  the  stark  trunks  of  the  factories 
Melt  into  the  drawn  darkness, 
Sheathing  like  a  seamless  garment. 

And  mothers  take  home  their  babies, 

Waxen  and  delicately  curled, 

Like  little  potted  flowers  closed  under  the  stars.  .  .  e 

Lights  go  out  .  .  . 

And  colors  rush  together, 

Fusing  and  floating  away. 

Pale  worn  gold  like  the  settings  of  old  jewels  .  .  . 

Mauve,  exquisite,  tremulous,  and  luminous  purples, 

And  burning  spires  in  aureoles  of  light 

Like  shimmering  auras. 

They  are  covering  up  the  pushcarts  .  .  . 


LOLA  RIDGE  305 

Now  all  have  gone  save  an  old  man  witfi  mirrors — 

Little  oval  mirrors  like  tiny  pools. 

He  shuffles  up  a  darkened  street 

And  the  moon  burnishes  his  mirrors  till  they  shine  like  phosphorus.  .  .  , 

The  moon  like  a  skull, 

Staring  out  of  eyeless  sockets  at  the  old  men  trundling  home  the  pushcarts. 


A  sallow  dawn  is  in  the  sky 

As  I  enter  my  little  green  room. 

Without,  the  frail  moon, 

Worn  to  a  silvery  tissue, 

Throws  a  faint  glamor  on  the  roofs, 

And  down  the  shadowy  spires 

Lights  tip-toe  out  .  .  . 

Softly  as  when  lovers  close  street  doors. 

Out  of  the  Battery 

A  little  wind 

Stirs  idly — as  an  arm 

Trails  over  a  boat's  side  in  dalliance — 

Rippling  the  smooth  dead  surface  of  the  heat, 

And  Hester  Street, 

Like  a  forlorn  woman  over-borne 

By  many  babies  at  her  teats, 

Turns  on  her  trampled  bed  to  meet  the  day. 


FACES 

A  late  snow  beats 

With  cold  white  fists  upon  the  tenements — 

Hurriedly  drawing  blinds  and  shutters, 

Like  tall  old  slatterns 

Pulling  aprons  about  their  heads. 

Lights  slanting  out  of  Mott  Street 

Gibber  out, 

Or  dribble  through  bar-room  slits, 

Anonymous  shapes 

Conniving  behind  shuttered  panes 

Caper  and  disappear  .  .  . 

Where  the  Bowery 

Is  throbbing  like  a  fistula 

Back  of  her  ice-scabbed  fronts. 

Livid  faces 

Glimmer  in  furtive  doorways, 

Or  spill  out  of  the  black  pockets  of  alleys, 

Smears  of  faces  like  muddied  beads, 

Making  a  ghastly  rosary 

The  night  mumbles  over 


And  the  snow  with  its  devilish  and  silken 

whisper  .  .  . 
Patrolling  arcs 

Blowing  shrill  blasts  over  the  Bread  Line 
Stalk  them  as  they  pass, 
Silent  as  though  accouched  of  the  darkness, 
And  the  wind  noses  among  them, 

Like  a  skunk 
That  roots  about  the  heart  .  .  . 

Colder: 

And  the  Elevated  slams  upon  the  silence 

Like  a  ponderous  door. 

Then  all  is  still  again, 

Save  for  the  wind  fumbling  over 

The  emptily  swaying  faces — 

The  wind  rummaging 

Like  an  old  Jew  .  .  . 

Faces  in  glimmering  rows  .  .  . 
(No  sign  of  the  abject  life — 
Not  even  a  blasphemy  .  .  .) 
But  the  spindle  legs  keep  time 
To  a  limping  rhythm, 


LOLA  RIDGE 


And  the  shadows  twitch  upon  the  snow 

Convulsively — 
As  though  death  played 
With  some  ungainly  dolls. 


NEW    ORLEANS 

Do  you  remember 

Honey-melon  moon 

Dripping  thick  sweet  light 

Where  Canal  Street  saunters  off  by  herself 

among  quiet  trees ? 
And  the  faint  decayed  patchouli — 
Fragrance  of  New  Orleans  .  .  . 
New  Orleans, 
Like  a  dead  tube  rose 
Upheld  in  the  warm  air  ... 
Miraculously  whole. 


WIND    IN    THE    ALLEYS 

Wind,  rising  in  the  alleys, 

My  spirit  lifts  in  you  like  a  banner 

streaming  free  of  hot  walls. 
You  are  full  of  unshaped  dreams  .  .  . 
You  are  laden  with  beginnings  .  .  . 
There  is  hope  in  you  ...  not  sweet  . 

acrid  as  blood  in  the  mouth. 
Come  into  my  tossing  dust 
Scattering  the  peace  of  old  deaths, 
Wind  rising  out  of  the  alleys 
Carrying  stuff  of  flame. 

MARIE 

Marie's  face  is  a  weathered  sign 

To  the  palace  of  gliding  cars 

Over  the  bend  where  the  trolley  dips: 

A  dime  for  a  wired  rose, 

Nickel-a-nde  to  the  zig-zag  stars, 

And  then  men  in  elegant  clothes, 


That  feed  you  on  cardboard  ships, 
And  the  sea-floats  so  fine'  — 
Like  a  green  and  gorgeous  bubble 
God  blew  out  of  his  lips. 

When  Marie  carries  down  the  stair 

The  ritual  of  her  face, 

Your  greeting  takes  her  unaware, 

And  her  glance  is  timid-bold 

As  a  dcg's  unsure  of  its  place. 

With  that  hair,  of  the  rubbed-off  gold 

Of  a  wedding-ring  worn  to  a  thread, 

In  a  halo  about  the  head, 

And  those  luminous  eyes  in  their  rims  of 

paint, 
She  looks  a  bedizened  saint. 

But  when  the  worn  moon,  like  a  face  still 

beautiful, 

Wavers  above  the  Battery, 
And  light  comes  in,  mauve-gray, 
Squeezing    through    shutters    of    furnished 

rooms 

Till  only  corners  hold  spots  of  darkness  — 
As  a  tablecloth  its  purple  stains 
When  a  festival  is  ended  — 
Then  Mane  creeps  into  the  house. 

The  paint  is  lonesome  on  her  cheek. 

The  paint  is  gone  from  off  her  mouth 

That  curls  back  loosely  away  from  her  teeth, 

She  pushes  slackly  at  the  dawn 

That  crawls  upon  the  yellow  blind, 

And  enters  like  an  aimless  moth 

Whose  dim  wings  hover  and  alight 

Upon  the  blurred  face  of  the  clock, 

Or  on  the  pallor  of  her  feet  — 

Or  anything  that's  white. 

Until  dispersed  upon  the  sheet, 

All  limp,  her  waxen  body  lies 

In  its  delinquent  grace, 

Like  a  warm  bent  candle 

That  flares  about  its  place. 


APRIL    OF    OUR    DESIRE 

Is  not  this  April  of  our  brief  desire 

That  stirs  the  robins  to  a  twittering 

But  waste  vibration  of  some  vaster  spring 

Which  moves  the  void  to  utterance.  This  fire 

Once  babbled  on  our  hills  (that  have  forgot 

Their  fiery  accents)  when  the  earth  was  cleft 


LOLA  RIDGE  3o7 

And  flooding  in  her  canyons,  raging  hot, 
Ere  this  intricate,  fair  design  was  lett. 

Long,  long  before  strange  creatures  overhead 

Cast  wheeling  shadows  on  the  desert,  wings 

Flamed  from  out  the  mountains,  radiant  things, 

That  stood  erect  upon  each  bla/ing  nm 

Of  horned  horizons,  shone  like  seraphim 

And  shook  the  earth  with  their  enormous  tread. 


William  Carlos  Williams 

CARLOS  WILLIAMS  was  born  September  17,  1883,  in  Rutherford,  New 
Jersey,  where  he  has  lived  and  practiced  medicine  ever  since.  His  father,  Wil- 
liam George  Williams,  was  born  in  Birmingham,  England;  his  father's  mother's 
name  was,  curiously  enough,  Emily  Dickinson.  His  mother,  Raquel  Ellen  Rose 
Hoheb,  was  born  in  Mayaguez,  Puerto  Rico.  Her  mother,  a  Basque  named  Mehnc 
Hurrard,  was  born  in  Martinique;  her  father,  Solomon  Hoheb,  of  Dutch-Spanish- 
Jewish  descent,  was  born  in  St.  Thomas.  This  liberal  mixture  o(  bloods  made  Wil- 
liams a  complete  melting-pot  in  himself;  there  arc  those  who  claim  that  the  mingled 
strains  fused  logically  into  some  of  the  most  definitely  American  writing  of  the 
period. 

Williams  was  educated  at  Horace  Mann  High  School,  New  York,  at  Chateau  de 
Lancy,  near  Geneva,  Switzerland,  and  at  the  University  of  Pennsylvania,  from 
which  he  graduated  in  medicine  in  1906.  There  followed  two  years  of  intcrneship 
in  New  York  and  a  year  of  graduate  study  in  pediatrics  in  Leipzig.  In  his  twenty- 
third  year  he  published  the  traditionally  imitative  first  volume,  Poems  (1909),  which 
was  followed  by  The  Tempers  (1913),  published  in  London  and  bearing  the  influ- 
ence of  Pound  and  his  fellow-imagists.  Al  Quc  Quicie  (1917)  strikes  a  more  deci- 
sive experimental  note;  from  the  mocking  directions  for  a  funeral  which  Williams 
has  entitled  "Tract"  to  the  extended  suite  called  "January  Morning"  Williams 
achieves  a  purposeful  distortion  which  intensifies  his  objects  in  sharp  detail.  Kora  in 
Hell  (1921)  and  Sour  Grapes  (1922)  pay  increasing  attention  to  the  "pure"  value 
of  physical  things.  Spring  and  All  (1923)  was  followed  by  The  Descent  of  Winter 
in  which  Williams  alternated  between  exact  description  and  an  attempt  to  record 
the  wavering  outlines  of  the  unconscious.  At  one  moment  Williams  declared  he  was 
"sick  of  rime,"  but,  almost  immediately  after,  he  concluded:  "And  we  thought  to 
escape  rime  /  by  imitation  of  the  senseless  /  unarrangement  of  wild  things — the 
stupidest  rime  of  all."  Those  who  have  been  quick  to  accuse  Williams  of  disorgan- 
ization have  not  examined  the  strong  color  and  delicate  movement  of  such  poems  as 
"Metric  Figure,"  "Dawn,"  "Queen-Ann's-Lacc,"  "Daisy,"  and  the  remarkable 
"Poem"  beginning  "By  the  road  to  the  contagious  hospital." 

When  the  first  Collected  Poems  appeared  in  1934  Wallace  Stevens  wrote  in  the 
Preface:  "The  man  has  spent  his  life  in  rejecting  the  accepted  sense  of  things.  His 
passion  for  the  anti-poetic  is  a  blood  passion  and  not  a  passion  for  the  ink-pot.  Some- 
thing of  the  unreal  is  necessary  to  fecundate  the  real;  something  of  the  sentimental 


jo8  WILLIAM  CARLOS   WILLIAMS 

is  necessary  to  fecundate  the  anti-poetic.  .  .  .  One  might  run  through  these  pages 
and  point  out  how  often  the  essential  poetry  is  the  result  of  the  conjunction  of  the 
unreal  and  the  real,  the  sentimental  and  the  anti-poetic,  the  constant  interaction  of 
two  opposites."  A  few  years  later,  in  "A  Note  on  Poetry/'  Williams  replied  to  those 
who  had  attacked  his  poems  for  being  bare  in  outline  and  violent  in  idiom.  "The 
American  writer,1*  Williams  began,  "uses  a  language  .  .  .  which  has  been  modi- 
fied by  time  and  the  accidents  of  place  to  acquire  a  character  differing  greatly  from 
that  of  present-day  English.  For  the  appreciation  of  American  poetry  it  is  necessary 
that  the  reader  accept  this  language  difference  from  the  beginning  " 

The  Complete  Collected  Poems  1906-1938  reveals  with  what  increasing  strength 
Williams  has  developed  in  the  idiom  of  the  United  States.  Although  his  lines  rarely 
descend  to  slang,  they  arc  full  ot  the  conversational  speech  of  the  country;  they 
express  the  brusque  nervous  tension,  the  vigor  and  rhetoric  of  American  life.  Even 
when  they  are  purposely  unadorned  and  non-melodic  they  intensify  some  common 
object  with  pointed  detail  ami  confident,  if  clipped,  emotion.  "Emotion,"  says  Wil- 
liams, "clusters  about  common  things,  the  pathetic  often  stimulates  the  imagination 
to  new  patterns — but  the  job  of  the  poet  is  to  use  language  effectively,  his  own 
language,  the  only  language  which  is  to  him  authentic.  In  my  own  work  it  has 
always  sufficed  that  the  object  of  my  attention  be  presented  without  further  com- 
ment." Actually  Williams'  gamut  is  much  greater  than  he  implies.  With  character- 
istic growth  he  freed  himself  from  Pound  and  the  pretty  escapism  of  the  Imagisls; 
some  of  the  richest  and  most  mdividualr/cd  free  verse  of  the  period  can  be  found 
in  "Flowers  by  the  Sea,"  "The  Poor,"  "The  Yachts,"  and  "These."  Again  and  again 
Williams  proves  that  everything  in  the  world  is  the  poet's  material,  and  that  the  most 
tawdry  objects  have  their  use  and  beauty  "if  the  imagination  can  lighten  them." 

The  scope  and  quality  of  his  work  justify  Williams'  theory.  His  poems  have 
grown  simpler  and  more  austere;  his  compositions  are  stricter  in  form,  the  colors 
are  flat  but  fresh.  This  is  evident  even  in  the  thirty-page  pamphlet,  The  Btot^en 
Span  (1941),  which  ranges  from  the  early  objective  poetry  of  sheer  sensation  to  a 
deep  concern  with  the  ordinary  aspects  of  everyday  life.  His  later  work  shows  an 
observation  especially  sharp  but  rarely  malicious,  and  a  sympathy  which  is  wide 
but  never  maudlin.  More  and  more  rigorously  it  tends  to  cut  away  all  excessive 
decoration  and  place  the  stress  upon  the  object  itself.  This  later  poetry,  even  when 
it  remains  a  poetry  of  non-intellectual  feeling,  achieves  a  technique  matching  the 
wide-ranging  curiosity.  The  fusion  of  content  and  design  is  so  simple  and,  at  the 
same  time,  so  subtle  that  it  often  conceals  the  poet's  mastery  of  his  material. 

Various  prose  works,  notably  the  essays  In  the  Amencan  Gtain  (1925),  and  the 
novels  A  Voyage  to  Pagany  (1928),  White  Mule  (1937),  and  In  the  Money  (1940) 
mingle  history  and  reappraisal,  reportonal  accuracy  and  creative  imagination. 

METRIC   FIGURE  Day  is  on  his  wings. 

^,  »      ,        ,  i  Phoenix! 

There  is  a  bird  in  the  poplars —  Ti.      ,      ,    „  ,  . 

T         .  .  *   *  It  is  he  that  is  making 

It  is  the  sun  The  leam  am        thc        j 

1  he  leaves  are  little  yellow  fish  Jt  is  £s  ^  *        p  p 

Swimming  in  the  river;  Outshines  the  noise 

The  bird  skims  above  them—  Of  leaves  clashing  in  the  wind. 


WILLIAM  CARLOS   WILLIAMS 


3°9 


DAWN 

Ecstatic  bird  songs  pound 

the  hollow  vastness  of  the  sky 

with  metallic  clinkings — 

beating  color  up  into  it 

at  a  far  edge, — beating  it,  beating  it 

with  rising,  triumphant  ardor, — 

stirring  it  into  warmth, 

quickening  in  it  a  spreading  change, — 

bursting  wildly  against  it  as 

dividing  the  horizon,  a  heavy  sun 

lifts  himself: — is  lifted — 

bit  by  bit  above  the  edge 

of  things, — runs  free  at  last 

out  into  the  open — '  lumbering 

glorified  in  full  release  upward — 

songs  cease. 


POEM 

By  the  road  to  the  contagious  hospital, 

under  the  surge  of  the  blue 

mottled  clouds  driven  from  the 

northeast — cold  wind.  Beyond,  the 

waste  of  broad,  muddy  fields, 

brown  with  dried  weeds,  standing  and  fallen, 

patches  of  standing  water, 
the  scattering  of  tall  trees. 

All  along  the  road  the  reddish, 
purplish,  forked,  upstanding,  twiggy 
stuff  of  brushes  and  small  trees 


with  dead,  brown  leaves  under  them 
leafless  vines — 

Lifeless  m  appearance,  sluggish, 
dazed  spring  approaches — 

They  enter  the  new  world  naked, 
cold,  uncertain  of  all 
save  that  they  enter.  All  about  them 
the  cold,  familiar  wind — 

Now  the  grass,  tomorrow 

the  stifT  curl  of  wild-carrot  leaf. 

One  by  one  objects  are  defined — 
It  quickens*  clarity,  outline  of  leaf, 

But  now  the  stark  dignity  of 
entrance —  Still,  the  profound  change 
has  come  upon  them;  rooted,  they 
grip  down  and  begin  to  awaken. 


JANUARY 

Again  I  reply  to  the  triple  winds 
running  chiomatic  fifths  of  derision 
outside  my  window: 

Play  louder. 

You  will  not  succeed.  1  am 
bound  more  to  my  sentences 
the  more  you  batter  at  me 
to  follow  you. 

And  the  wind, 
as  before,  fingers  perfectly 
its  derisive  music. 


QUEEN-ANN    S-LACE 

Her  body  is  not  so  white  as 

anemone  petals  nor  so  smooth — nor 

so  remote  a  thing.  It  is  a  field 

of  the  wild  carrot  taking 

the  field  by  force;  the  grass 

does  not  raise  above  it. 

Here  is  no  question  of  whiteness, 

white  as  can  be,  with  a  purple  mole 

at  the  center  of  each  flower. 

Each  flower  is  a  hand's  span 

of  her  whiteness.  Wherever 

his  hand  has  lain  there  is 

a  tiny  purple  blemish.  Each  part 


J/0 


WILLIAM   CARLOS   WILLIAMS 


is  a  blossom  under  his  touch 

to  which  the  fibers  of  her  being 

stem  one  by  one,  each  to  its  end, 

until  the  whole  field  is  a 

white  desire,  empty,  a  single  stem, 

a  cluster,  flower  by  flower, 

a  pious  wish  to  whiteness  gone  over — 

or  nothing. 


DAISY 

The  dayseye  hugging  the  earth 

in  August,  ha'  Spring  is 

gone  down  in  purple, 

weeds  stand  high  in  the  corn, 

the  rambeatcn  furrow 

is  clotted  with  sorrel 

and  crabgrass,  the 

branch  is  black  under 

the  heavy  mass  of  the  leaves — 

The  sun  is  upon  a 

slender  green  stem 

ribbed  lengthwise. 

He  lies  on  his  back — 

it  is  a  woman  also — 

he  regards  his  former 

majesty  and 

round  the  yellow  center, 

split  and  creviced  and  done  into 

minute  flowerheads,  he  sends  out 

his  twenty  rays — a  little 

and  the  wind  is  among  them 

to  grow  cool  there' 

One  turns  the  thing  over 

in  his  hand  and  looks 

at  it  from  the  rear:  browned ged, 

green  and  pointed  scales 

armor  his  yellow. 

But  turn  and  turn, 

the  crisp  petals  remain 

brief,  translucent,  green  fastened, 


barely  touching  at  the  edges: 
blades  of  limpid  seashell. 


ON     GAY     WALLPAPER 

The  green-blue  ground 
is  ruled  with  silver  lines 
to  say  the  sun  is  shining 

And  on  this  mural  sea 

of  grass  or  dreams  lie  flowers 

or  baskets  of  desires 

Heaven  knows  what  they  are 
between  cerulean  shapes 
laid  regularly  round 

Mat  roses  and  tridentate 

leaves  of  gold 

threes,  threes  and  threes 

Three  roses  and  three  stems 

the  basket  floating 

standing  in  the  horns  of  blue 

Repeated  to  the  ceiling 
to  the  windows 
where  the  day 

Blows  in 

the  scalloped  curtains  to 

the  sound  of  ram. 


TRACT 

I  will  teach  you  my  townspeople 

how  to  perform  a  funeral — 

for  you  have  it  over  a  troop 

of  artists — 

unless  one  should  scour  the  world — 

you  have  the  ground  sense  necessary. 


WILLIAM   CARLOS    WILLIAMS 


See'  the  hearse  leads. 

I  begin  with  a  design  for  a  hearse. 

For  Christ's  sake  not  black  — 

nor  white  either  —  and  not  polished! 

Let  it  be  weathered  —  like  a  farm  wagon  — 

with  gilt  wheels  (this  could  be 

applied  fresh  at  small  expense) 

or  no  wheels  at  all: 

a  rough  dray  to  drag  over  the  ground. 

Knock  the  glass  out! 

My  God  —  glass,  my  townspeople! 

For  what  purpose  ?  Is  it  for  the  dead 

to  look  out  or  for  us  to  see 

how  well  he  is  housed  or  to  see 

the  flowers  or  the  lack  of  them  — 

or  what? 

To  keep  the  ram  and  snow  from  him? 

He  will  have  a  heavier  ram  soon: 

pebbles  and  dirt  and  what  not. 

Let  there  be  no  glass  — 

and  no  upholstery!  phew! 

and  no  little  brass  rollers 

and  small  easy  wheels  on  the  bottom  — 

my  townspeople  what  are  you  thinking  of 

A  rough  plain  hearse  then 
with  gilt  wheels  and  no  top  at  all. 
On  this  the  coffin  lies 
by  its  own  weight. 

No  wreaths  please  — 
especially  no  hot-house  flowers. 
Some  common  memento  is  better, 
something  he  prized  and  is  known  by: 
his  old  clothes  —  a  few  books  perhaps  — 
God  knows  what!  You  realize 
how  we  are  about  these  things, 
my  townspeople  — 

something  will  be  found  —  anything  — 
even  flowers  if  he  had  come  to  that. 
So  much  for  the  hearse. 

For  heaven's  sake  though  see  to  the  driver! 

Take  off  the  silk  hat'  In  fact 

that's  no  place  at  all  for  him 

up  there  unceremoniously 

dragging  our  friend  out  to  his  own  dignity! 

Bring  him  down  —  bring  him  down' 

Low  and  inconspicuous!  I'd  not  have  him  ride 

on  the  wagon  at  all  —  damn  him  — 


312  WILLIAM  CARLOS   WILLIAMS 

the  undertaker's  understrapper  I 
Let  him  hold  the  reins 
and  walk  at  the  side 
and  inconspicuously  too! 

Then  briefly  as  to  yourselves: 

Walk  behind — as  they  do  in  France, 

seventh  class,  or  if  you  ride 

Hell  take  curtains1  Go  with  some  show 

of  inconvenience;  sit  openly — 

to  the  weather  as  to  grief. 

Or  do  you  think  you  can  shut  grief  in? 

What — from  us?  We  who  have  peihaps 

nothing  to  lose?  Share  with  us 

share  with  us — it  will  be  money 

in  your  pockets. 

Go  now 
I  think  you  are  ready. 


SMELL 

Oh  strong  ridged  and  deeply  hollowed 

nose  of  mine'  what  will  you  not  be  smelling? 

What  tactless  asses  we  are,  you  and  I,  boney  nose, 

always  indiscriminate,  always  unashamed, 

and  now  it  is  the  souring  ilowers  of  the  bedraggled 

poplars:  a  festering  pulp  on  the  wet  earth 

beneath  them.  With  what  deep  thirst 

we  quicken  our  desires 

to  that  rank  odor  of  a  passing  springtime' 

Can  you  not  be  decent?  Can  you  not  reserve  your  ardors 

for  something  less  unlovely?  What  girl  will  care 

for  us,  do  you  think,  if  we  continue  in  these  ways? 

Must  you  taste  everything?   Must  you  know  everything? 

Must  you  have  a  part  in  everything? 

A     GOODNIGHT 

Go  to  sleep — though  of  course  you  will  not — 
to  tidelcss  waves  thundering  slantwise  against 
strong  embankments,  rattle  and  swish  of  spray 
dashed  thirty  feet  high,  caught  by  the  lake  wind, 
scattered  and  strewn  broadcast  in  over  the  steady 
car  rails'  Sleep,  sleep'  Gulls'  cries  in  a  wind-gust 
broken  by  the  wind;  calculating  wings  set  above 
the  field  of  waves  breaking. 
Go  to  sleep  to  the  lunge  between  foam-crests, 
refuse  churned  in  the  recoil.  Food'  Food'- 
Offal'  Offal!  that  holds  them  in  the  air,  wave-white 
for  the  one  purpose,  feather  upon  feather,  the  wild 


WILLIAM  CARLOS   WILLIAMS 

chill  in  their  eyes,  the  hoarseness  in  their  voices — 
sleep,  sleep  .  .  . 

Gentlcfooted  crowds  are  treading  out  your  lullaby. 
Their  arms  nudge,  they  brush  shoulders,- 
hitch  this  way,  then  that,  mass  and  surge  at  the  crossings — 
lullaby,  lullaby  1  The  wild-iowl  police  whistles, 
the  enraged  roar  of  the  traffic,  machine  shrieks: 
>  it  is  all  to  put  you  to  sleep, 
to  soften  your  limbs  in  relaxed  postures, 
and  that  your  head  slip  sidcwisc,  and  your  hair  loosen 
and  fall  over  your  eyes  and  over  your  mouth, 
brushing  your  lips  wistfully  that  you  may  dream, 
sleep  and  dream — 

A  black  fungus  springs  out  about  lonely  church  doors — 

sleep,  sleep.  The  Night,  coming  down  upon 

the  wet  boulevard,  would  start  you  awake  with  his 

message,  to  have  in  at  your  window.  Pay  no 

heed  to  him.  Pie  storms  at  your  sill  with 

rooings,  with  gesticulations,  curses' 

You  will  not  let  him  in   lie  would  keep  you  from  sleeping. 

He  would  have  you  sit  under  your  desk  lamp 

brooding,  pondering;  he  would  have  you 

slide  out  the  drawer,  take  up  the  ornamented  dagger 

and  handle  it.  It  is  late,  it  is  nmctcen-mnctcen — 

go  to  sleep,  his  cries  are  a  lullaby; 

his  jabbering  is  a  sleep-well-my-baby;  he  is 

a  crackbramcd  messenger. 

The  maid  waking  you  in  the  morning 

when  you  are  up  and  dressing, 

the  rustle  of  your  clothes  as  you  raise  them — 

it  is  the  same  tune. 

At  table  the  cold,  greenish,  split  grapefruit,  its  juice 

on  the  tongue,  the  clink  of  the  spoon  in 

your  coffee,  the  toast  odors  say  it  over  and  over. 

The  open  street-door  lets  in  the  breath  of 

the  morning  wind  from  over  the  lake. 

The  bus  coming  to  a  halt  grinds  from  its  sullen  brakes — 

lullaby,  lullaby.  The  crackle  of  a  newspaper, 

the  movement  of  the  troubled  coat  beside  you — 

sleep,  sleep,  sleep,  sleep  .  .  . 

It  is  the  sting  of  snow,  the  burning  liquor  of 

the  moonlight,  the  rush  of  rain  in  the  gutters  packed 

with  dead  leaves:  go  to  sleep,  go  to  sleep. 

And  the  night  passes — and  never  passes — 


WILLIAM  CARLOS   WILLIAMS 


THE    RED    WHEELBARROW 

so  much  depends 
upon 

a  red  wheel 
barrow 

glazed  with  rain 
water 

beside  the  white 
chickens 


FLOWERS    BY    THE    SEA 

When  over  the  flowery,  sharp  pasture's 
edge,  unseen,  the  salt  ocean 

lifts  its  form — chicory  and  daisies 

tide,  released,  seem  hardly  flowers  alone 

but  color  and  the  movement — or  the  shape 
perhaps — of  restlessness,  whereas 

the  sea  is  circled  and  sways 
peacefully  upon  its  planthkc  stem 


THE    POOR 

It's  the  anarchy  of  poverty 
delights  me,  the  old 
yellow  wooden  house  indented 
among  the  new  brick  tenements 

Or  a  cast  iron  balcony 

with  panels  showing  oak  branches 

in  full  leaf.  It  fits 

the  dress  of  the  children 

reflecting  every  stage  and 
custom  of  necessity — 
Chimneys,  roofs,  fences  of 
wood  and  metal  in  an  unfenced 

age  and  enclosing  next  to 
nothing  at  all:  the  old  man 
in  a  sweater  and  soft  black 
hat  who  sweeps  the  sidewalk — 

his  own  ten  feet  of  it — 
in  a  wind  that  fitfully 
turning  his  corner  has 
overwhelmed  the  entire  city 


THESE 

are  the  desolate,  dark  weeks 
when  nature  in  its  barrenness 
equals  the  stupidity  of  man. 

The  year  plunges  into  night 
and  the  heart  plunges 
lower  than  night 

to  an  empty,  windswept  place 

without  sun,  stars  or  moon 

but  a  peculiar  light  as  of  thought 

that  spins  a  dark  fire — 
whirling  upon  itself  until, 
in  the  cold,  it  kindles 

to  make  a  man  aware  of  nothing 
that  he  knows,  not  loneliness 
itself —  Not  a  ghost  but 

would  be  embraced — emptiness, 

despair —  (They 

whine  and  whistle)  among 


WILLIAM  CARLOS   WILLIAMS 


the  flashes  and  'booms  of  war; 

houses  of  whose  rooms 

the  cold  is  greater  than  can  be  thought, 

the  people  gone  that  we  loved, 
the  beds  lying  empty,  the  couches 
damp,  the  chairs  unused — 

Hide  it  away  somewhere 

out  of  the  mind,  let  it  get  roots 

and  grow,  unrelated  to  jealous 

ears  and  eyes — for  itself. 

In  this  mine  they  come  to  dig — all. 

Is  this  the  counterfoil  to  sweetest 

music?1  The  source  of  poetry  that 
seeing  the  clock  stopped,  says, 
The  clock  has  stopped 

that  ticked  yesterday  so  welP 
and  hears  the  sound  of  lakewater 
splashing — that  is  now  stone. 


ILLEGITIMATE    THINGS 

Water  still  flows — 
The  thrush  still  sings 

though  in 

the  skirts  of  the  sky 

at  the  bottom  of 
the  distance 

huddle  .  .  . 

.  .  .  echoing  cannon! 

Whose  silence  revives 
valley  after 

valley  to  peace 

as  poems  still  conserve 

the  language 
of  old  ecstasies. 


Sara  Teasdale 

SARA  TEASDALE  was  born  August  8,  1884,  in  St.  Louis,  Missouri,  and  educated  there. 
After  leaving  school  she  traveled  in  Europe  and  the  Near  East.  She  was  fasci- 
nated and  frightened  by  the  poet  Vachel  Lindsay  who  courted  her  with  over- 
whelming exuberance.  In  1914  she  married  Ernst  Filsmger  and,  two  years  later, 
moved  with  him  to  New  York.  But  she  was  essentially  the  solitary  spirit  pictured 
in  her  poem  on  page  318,  and  the  marriage  was  not  successful.  After  her  divorce, 
she  lived  in  seclusion,  and  ill  health  emphasized  her  unhappmess.  She  was  found 
drowned  in  the  bath  of  her  New  York  apartment,  January  28,  1933. 

Her  first  book  was  a  slight  volume,  Sonnets  to  Duse  (1907),  which  gave  little 
promise  of  the  lyricism  to  follow.  Helen  of  Troy  and  Other  Poems  (1911)  contains 
hints  of  that  delicate  craftsmanship  which  this  poet  brought  to  such  finesse.  The  six 
opening  monologues  are  written  in  a  blank  verse  as  musical  as  many  of  her  lyrics. 
At  times  her  quatrains  suffer  from  too  conscious  a  cleverness;  the  dexterity  with 
which  Miss  Teasdale  turns  a  phrase  or  twists  her  last  line  is  frequently  too  ob- 
trusive to  be  unreservedly  enjoyable.  Moreover,  they  seem  written  in  a  mood  of 
predetermined  and  too  picturesque  romance,  the  mood  of  languishing  roses,  silken 
balconies,  moonlight  on  guitars,  and  abstract  kisses  for  unreal  Cohns. 

Rivers  to  the  Sea  (1915)  emphasizes  a  new  skill  and  a  greater  restraint.  The  vol- 
ume contains  at  least  a  dozen  unforgettable  snatches,  lyrics  in  which  the  words 
seem  to  fall  into  place  without  art  or  effort.  Seldom  employing  metaphor  or  striking 


j/6  SARA  TEASDALE 

imagery,  almost  bare  of  ornament,  these  poems  have  the  touch  of  folk-song.  Theirs 
is  an  artlessness  that  is  something  more  than  art. 

Love  Songs  (1917)  is  a  collection  of  Miss  Teasdale's  previous  melodies  for  the 
viola  d'amoi  e  together  with  several  in  which  the  turns  are  no  longer  obviously  unex- 
pected. Maturity  is  evident  in  the  poet's  rejection  of  many  of  her  facile  stanzas  and 
her  choice  of  firmer  material. 

Flame  and  Shadow  (1920;  revised  edition,  published  in  England,  in  1924)  is  the 
ripest  of  her  books.  Here  the  emotion  is  fuller  and  deeper;  an  almost  mystic  radiance 
plays  from  these  verses.  Technically,  also,  this  volume  marks  Miss  Teasdale's  great- 
est advance.  The  words  are  chosen  with  a  keener  sense  of  their  actual  as  well  as 
their  musical  values;  the  rhythms  are  more  subtle  and  varied;  the  line  moves  with  a 
greater  naturalness.  Beneath  the  symbolism  of  poems  like  "Water-Lilies,"  "The 
Long  Hill,"  and  "Let  It  Be  Forgotten,"  one  is  conscious  of  a  finer  artistry,  a  more 
flexible  speech  that  is  all  the  lovelier  for  its  slight  (and  logical)  irregularities. 

After  Flame  and  Shadow  Miss  Teasdale's  theme  became  somewhat  autumnal. 
Though  never  funereal,  the  songs  are  preoccupied  with  the  coming  of  age,  the  gath- 
ering of  night,  the  mutability  of  things.  Dat^  of  the  Moon  (1926)  is  more  thought- 
ful than  any  other  previous  verse.  It  is,  as  the  title  indicates,  even  more  somber.  If 
the  movement  is  slower  it  is  a  no  less  delicate  music  that  moves  under  the  surface 
rhythms.  "Wisdom,"  "The  Solitary,"  "The  Flight"  may  not  be  the  most  popular 
poems  that  Miss  Tcasdale  has  written,  but  they  must  be  numbered  among  her  best. 
Hers  is  a  disillusion  without  cynicism;  her  proud  acceptance  of  life's  darker  aspects 
adds  new  dignity  to  the  old  lyricism. 

Stiange  Victoty  (1933)  is  Sara  Teasdale's  posthumous  memorial  to  a  world  she 
never  quite  despised  yet  never  wholly  trusted.  The  poems  are  sad  yet  not  sentimental. 
Though  death  overshadows  the  book  there  is  never  the  querulous  cry  of  frustration 
nor  the  melodrama  of  dying.  As  in  the  later  lyrics  the  lines  are  direct,  the  emotion 
unwhippcd;  the  beauty  is  in  the  restiamt,  the  careful  selection,  the  compression  into 
the  essential  spirit,  into  a  last  serenity.  It  is  an  irony  that  as  her  admirers  grew  less 
voluble  her  work  increased  in  value. 

Besides  her  own  books,  Miss  Teasdale  had  compiled  an  anthology,  The  Answering 
Voice  (1917),  comprising  one  hundred  love  lyrics  by  women,  and  a  collection  for 
children,  Rainbow  Gold  (1922). 


NIGHT    SONG    AT    AMALFI 

I  asked  the  heaven  of  stars 
What  I  should  give  my  love — 

It  answered  me  with  silence, 
Silence  above. 

I  asked  the  darkened  sea 

Down  where  the  fishermen  go — 
It  answered  me  with  silence, 

Silence  betew. 

Oh,  I  could  give  him  weeping, 
Or  I  could  give  him  song — 


But  how  can  I  give  silence 
My  whole  life  long? 

SPRING    NIGHT 

The  park  is  filled  with  night  and  fog, 
The  veils  are  drawn  about  the  world, 

The  drowsy  lights  along  the  paths 
Are  dim  and  pearled. 

Gold  and  gleaming  the  empty  streets, 
Gold  and  gleaming  the  misty  lake, 

The  mirrored  lights  like  sunken  swords, 
Glimmer  and  shake. 


SARA  TEASDALE  3/7 

Oh,  is  it  not  enough  to  be  Why  have  I  put  off  my  pride, 

Here  with  this  beauty  over  me?  Why  am  I  unsatisfied, — 

My  throat  should  ache  with  praise,  and  I  I,  for  whom  the  pensive  night 

Should  kneel  in  joy  beneath  the  sky.  Binds  her  cloudy  hair  with  light, — 

O  beauty,  are  you  not  enough?  I,  for  whom  all  beauty  burns 

Why  am  I  crying  after  love  Like  incense  in  a  million  urns? 

With  youth,  a  singing  voice,  and  eyes  ()  beauty,  are  you  not  enough? 

To  take  earth's  wonder  with  surprise?  Why  am  I  crying  after  love? 


I    SHALL    NOT    CARE 

When  I  am  dead  and  over  me  bright  April 

Shakes  out  her  rain-drenched  hair, 
Though  you  should  lean  above  me  broken-hearted, 

I  shall  not  care. 

I  shall  have  peace,  as  leafy  trees  arc  peaceful 

When  rain  bends  down  the  bough; 
And  I  shall  be  more  silent  and  cold-hearted 

Than  you  are  now. 


THE    LONG    HILL 

I  must  have  passed  the  crest  a  while  ago 

And  now  I  am  going  down — 
Strange  to  have  crossed  the  crest  and  not  to  know, 

But  the  brambles  were  always  catching  the  hem  of  my  gown. 

All  the  morning  I  thought  how  proud  I  should  be 

To  stand  there  straight  as  a  queen, 
Wrapped  in  the  wind  and  the  sun  with  the  world  under  me — 

But  the  air  was  dull,  there  was  little  I  could  have  seen, 

It  was  nearly  level  along  the  beaten  track 

And  the  brambles  caught  in  my  gown — 
But  it's  no  use  now  to  think  of  turning  back, 

The  rest  of  the  way  will  be  only  going  down. 


WATER-LILIES 

If  you  have  forgotten  waterdilies  floating 

On  a  dark  lake  among  mountains  in  the  afternoon  shade, 
If  you  have  forgotten  their  wet,  sleepy  fragrance, 

Then  you  can  return  and  not  be  afraid. 

But  if  you  remember,  then  turn  away  forever 
To  the  plains  and  the  prairies  where  pools  are  far  apart, 

There  you  will  not  come  at  dusk  on  closing  water-lilies, 
And  the  shadow  of  mountains  will  not  fall  on  your  heart. 


SARA   TEASDALE 


LET    IT    BE    FORGOTTEN 

Let  it  be  forgotten,  as  a  flower  is  forgotten, 
Forgotten  as  a  fire  that  once  was  singing  gold, 

Let  it  be  forgotten  for  ever  and  ever, 

Time  is  a  kind  friend,  he  will  make  us  old. 

If  anyone  asks,  say  it  was  forgotten 

Long  and  long  ago, 
As  a  flower,  as  a  fire,  as  a  hushed  footfall 

In  a  long-forgotten  snow. 


WISDOM 

It  was  a  night  of  early  spring, 
The  winter-sleep  was  scarcely  broken; 

Around  us  shadows  and  the  wind 
Listened  for  what  was  never  spoken. 

Though  half  a  score  of  years  are  gone, 
Spring  comes  as  sharply  now  as  then — 

But  if  we  had  it  all  to  do 

It  would  be  done  the  same  again. 

It  was  a  spring  that  never  came; 

But  we  have  lived  enough  to  know 
That  what  we  never  have,  remains; 

It  is  the  things  we  have  that  go. 

THE     SOLITARY 

My  heart  has  grown  rich  with  the  passing  of  years, 
•    I  have  less  need  now  than  when  I  was  young 
To  share  myself  with  every  comer, 
Or  shape  my  thoughts  into  words  with  my  tongue. 

It  is  one  to  me  that  they  come  or  go 

If  I  have  myself  and  the  drive  of  my  will, 

And  strength  to  climb  on  a  summer  night 
And  watch  the  stars  swarm  over  the  hill. 

Let  them  think  I  love  them  more  than  I  do, 
Let  them  think  I  care,  though  I  go  alone, 

If  it  lifts  their  pride,  what  is  it  to  me, 
Who  am  self -complete  as  a  flower  or  a  stone? 


THE    CRYSTAL    GAZER 

I  shall  gather  myself  into  myself  again, 

I  shall  take  my  scattered  selves  and  make  them  one. 
I  shall  fuse  them  into  a  polished  crystal  ball 

Where  I  can  see  the  moon  and  the  flashing  sun. 


SARA  TEASDALE 


3*9 


I  shall  sit  like  a  sibyl,  hour  after  hour  intent, 
Watching  the  future  come  and  the  present  go — 

And  the  little  shifting  pictures  of  people  rushing 
In  tiny  self-importance  to  and  fro. 


APPRAISAL 

Never  think  she  loves  him  wholly, 
Never  believe  her  love  is  blind, 
All  his  faults  are  locked  securely 
In  a  closet  of  her  mind; 
All  his  indecisions  folded 
Like  old  flags  that  time  has  faded, 
Limp  and  streaked  with  ram, 
And  his  cautiousness  like  garments 
Frayed  and  thin,  with  many  a  stain- 
Let  them  be,  oh,  let  them  be, 
There  is  treasure  to  outweigh  them, 
His  proud  will  that  sharply  stirred, 
Climbs  as  surely  as  the  tide, 
Senses  strained  too  taut  to  sleep, 
Gentleness  to  beast  and  bird, 
Humor  flickering  hushed  and  wide 
As  the  moon  on  moving  water, 


And  a  tenderness  too  deep 
To  be  gathered  in  a  word. 


ON    THE    SOUTH    DOWNS 

Over  the  downs  there  were  birds  flying, 

Far  o/T  glittered  the  sea, 
And  toward  the  north  the  weald  of  Sussex 

Lay  like  a  kingdom  under  me. 

I  was  happier  than  the  larks 

That  nest  on  the  downs  and  sing  to  the 

sky — 
Over  the  downs  the  birds  flying 

Were  not  so  happy  as  I. 

It  was  not  you,  though  you  were  near, 
Though  you  were  good  to  hear  and  see; 

It  was  not  earth,  it  was  not  heaven, 
It  was  myself  that  sang  in  me. 


AUGUST    NIGHT 

On  a  midsummer  night,  on  a  night  that  was  eerie  with  stars, 

In  a  wood  too  deep  for  a  single  star  to  look  through, 
You  led  down  a  path  whose  turnings  you  knew  in  the  darkness, 

But  the  scent  of  the  dew-dripping  cedars  was  all  that  I  knew. 

I  drank  of  the  darkness,  I  was  fed  with  the  honey  of  fragrance, 
I  was  glad  of  my  life,  the  drawing  of  breath  was  sweet; 

I  heard  your  voice,  you  said,  "Look  down,  sec  the  glow-worm'" 
It  was  there  before  me,  a  small  star  white  at  my  feet. 

We  watched  while  it  brightened  as  though  it  were  breathed  on  and  burning, 

This  tiny  creature  moving  over  earth's  floor — 
"  'L'amor  c he  move  il  sole  e  I'altre  stelle' " 

You  said,  and  no  more. 


EFFIGY    OF    A    NUN 

(Sixteenth  Century) 

Infinite  gentleness,  infinite  irony 
Are  in  this  face  with  fast-sealed  eyes, 

And  round  this  mouth  that  learned  in  loneliness 
How  useless  their  wisdom  is  to  the  wise. 


320 


SARA  TEASDALE 


In  her  nun's  habit  carved,  patiently,  lovingly, 
By  one  who  knew  the  ways  of  womankind, 

This  woman's  face  still  keeps,  in  its  cold  wistful  calm, 
All  of  the  subtle  pride  of  her  mind. 

These  long  patrician  hands,  clasping  the  crucifix, 
Show  she  had  weighed  the  world,  her  will  was  set; 

These  pale  curved  lips  of  hers,  holding  their  hidden  smile 
Once  having  made  their  choice,  knew  no  regret. 

She  was  of  those  who  hoard  their  own  thoughts  carefully, 

Feeling  them  far  too  dear  to  give  away, 
Content  to  look  at  life  with  the  high,  insolent 

Air  of  an  audience  watching  a  play. 

If  she  was  curious,  if  she  was  passionate 

She  must  have  told  herself  that  love  was  great, 

But  that  the  lacking  it  might  be  as  great  a  thing 
If  she  held  fast  to  it,  challenging  fate. 

She  who  so  loved  herself  and  her  own  warring  thoughts, 
Watching  their  humorous,  tragic  rebound, 

In  her  thick  habit's  fold,  sleeping,  sleeping, 
Is  she  amused  at  dreams  she  has  found? 

Infinite  tenderness,  infinite  irony 

Are  hidden  forever  in  her  closed  eyes, 
Who  must  have  learned  too  well  in  her  long  loneliness 

How  empty  wisdom  is,  even  to  the  wise. 


THE    FLIGHT 

We  are  two  eagles 
Flying  together, 
Under  the  heavens, 
Over  the  mountains, 
Stretched  on  the  wind. 
Sunlight  heartens  us, 
Blind  snow  baffles  us, 
Clouds  wheel  after  us, 
Raveled  and  thinned. 

We  are  like  eagles; 
But  when  Death  harries  us, 
Human  and  humbled 
When  one  of  us  goes, 
Let  the  other  follow — 
Let  the  flight  be  ended, 
Let  the  fire  blacken, 
Let  the  book  close. 


ELIZABETH  MADOX  ROBERTS 


Elizabeth  Madox  Roberts 

T^LIZABETH  MADOX  ROBERTS  was  born  in  1885,  at  Perry villc,  near  Springfield,  Ken- 
JLj  tucky,  and  attended  the  University  of  Chicago,  where  she  received  her  Ph. 13.  in 
1921.  Except  when  obliged  to  travel  for  health  or  warmth,  she  lived  in  the  Salt  River 
country  of  Kentucky,  twenty-eight  miles  from  Harrodsburg,  old  Fort  Harrod,  the 
first  settlement  in  the  state.  Suffering  from  anemia  she  died  March  13,  1941. 

As  an  undergraduate  she  won  the  local  Fiskc  Prize  with  a  group  of  poems  which 
later  appeared  in  Poetry:  A  Magazine  of  Veise.  An  amplification  of  these  verses  ap- 
peared as  Under  the  Tree  (1922)  and  critics  were^  quick  to  recognize  the  unusually 
fresh  accents  in  this  first  volume.  Under  the  Ttee  spoke  directly  to  the  young,  for  it 
was  written,  not  so  much  for  children,  but  as  a  sensitive  child  might  write.  The 
observation  is  precise,  the  reflections  are  candidly  clear,  the  humor  delicate,  never 
simpering  or  archly  beribboned.  Here  is  a  simplicity  which  is  straightforward  with- 
out being  shrill  or  mincing.  The  verse  is  graceful  where  grace  commands  the  gesture, 
but  Miss  Roberts'  unforced  naivete  allows  her  to  be  gauche  whenever  awkwardness 
is  natural. 

After  this  volume  Miss  Roberts  returned  to  her  native  state,  and  spent  much  of  her 
time  studying  the  archaic  English  speech  still  spoken  in  the  remote  parts  of  Ken- 
tucky. "Orpheus/*  although  written  later  than  her  first  book,  is  a  highly  interesting 
use  of  her  early  idiom,  localizing  as  well  as  vitalizing  the  old  myth.  "Stranger"  is 
more  definitely  indigenous;  it  has  something  of  the  flavor  of  the  Lonesome  Tunes 
collected  by  Howard  Brockway  and  Lorame  Wyman.  Concerning  this  poem,  Miss 
Roberts  writes,  "In  these  verses  I  have  used  material  from  the  old  ballads — or 
suggestions  from  them,  material  which  may  be  found  abundantly  in  Kentucky, 
together  with  modern  syncopation  and  a  refrain  designed  to  call  up  banjo  notes." 
"A  Ballet  Song  of  Mary,"  which  won  the  John  Reed  Memorial  Prize  in  Poetry 
(1928),  is  an  "artificial"  piece — using  the  adjective  in  the  best  sense — founded  on 
ancient  archaic  words  and  uses.  Here,  as  in  her  prose,  Miss  Roberts  writes  with  an 
ear  always  tuned  to  local  phrase  and  feeling. 

In  1925  Miss  Roberts  turned  to  the  prose  for  which  she  has  been  so  widely  cele- 
brated. The  Time  of  Man  (1926),  one  of  the  most  moving  novels  of  the  period,  is 
an  epic  of  the  Appalachians  in  which  every  chapter  has  the  effect  of  a  poem.  My 
Heart  and  My  Flesh  (1927),  a  darker  and  more  difficult  exploration,  discloses  less 
local  and  more  universal  regions  of  the  spirit.  Jingling  in  the  Wind  (1928)  is  a  less 
successful  experiment,  a  light  farce  which  tries  but  fails  to  be  a  satire  on  industrial 
civilization.  All  three  are  characterized  by  a  lyrical  charm  and  an  inscrutability  which 
set  Miss  Roberts  apart  from  the  competent  writers  of  easy  fiction. 

The  Great  Meadow  (1930)  is  an  exploration  of  the  material  uncovered  in  her  first 
novel.  Placed  in  the  Kentucky  meadow-lands  against  the  heroic  backgrounds  of  early 
American  history,  it  is  a  pioneering  panorama.  Native  to  the  least  grass-blade,  it 
is  much  more  than  a  narrative  of  the  soil;  it  is  a  widening  saga  of  the  men  and 
women  who  imposed  themselves  and  their  pattern  on  the  unshaped  wilderness. 
Thus  The  Great  Meadow  acts  both  as  the  preparation  for  and  the  rich  completion  of 
The  Time  of  Man.  A  novel  He  Sent  Forth  a  Raven  (1935)  combines  her  early 


322 


ELIZABETH  MADOX  ROBERTS 


individual  diction  with  the  later  restrained  mysticism,  a  combination  that  is  curi- 
ously lilting  and  intense. 


THE    SKY 

I  saw  a  shadow  on  the  ground 
And  heard  a  blucjay  going  by; 
A  shadow  went  across  the  ground, 
And  I  looked  up  and  saw  the  sky. 

It  hung  up  on  the  poplar  tree, 
But  while  I  looked  it  did  not  stay; 
It  gave  a  tiny  sort  of  jerk 
And  moved  a  little  bit  away. 

And  farther  on  and  farther  on 
It  moved  and  never  seemed  to  stop. 
I  think  it  must  be  tied  with  chains 
And  something  pulls  it  from  the  top. 

It  never  has  come  down  again, 
And  every  time  I  look  to  see, 
The  sky  is  always  slipping  back 
And  getting  far  away  from  me. 

CHRISTMAS    MORNING 

If  Bethlehem  were  here  today, 
Or  this  were  very  long  ago, 
There  wouldn't  be  a  winter  time 
Nor  any  cold  or  snow. 

I'd  run  out  through  the  garden  gate, 
And  down  along  the  pasture  walk; 
\nd  off  beside  the  cattle  barns 
I'd  hear  a  kind  of  gentle  talk. 

I'd  move  the  heavy  iron  chain 
And  pull  away  the  wooden  pin; 
I'd  push  the  door  a  little  bit 
And  tiptoe  very  softly  in. 

The  pigeons  and  the  yellow  hens 

And  all  the  cows  would  stand  away; 

Their  eyes  would  open  wid^  to  see 

A  lady  in  the  manger  hay, 

If  this  were  very  long  ago 

And  Bethlehem  were  here  today. 

And  Mother  held  my  hand  and  smiled — 
I  mean  the  lady  would — and  she 


Would  take  the  woolly  blankets  off 
Her  little  boy  so  I  could  see. 

His  shut-up  eyes  would  be  asleep, 
And  he  would  look  just  like  our  John, 
And  he  would  be  all  crumpled  too, 
And  have  a  pinkish  color  on. 

I'd  watch  his  breath  go  in  and  out. 
His  little  clothes  would  all  be  white. 
I'd  slip  my  finger  in  his  hand 
To  feel  how  he  could  hold  it  tight. 

And  she  would  smile  and  say,  "Take  care 
The  mother,  Mary,  would,  "Take  care"; 
And  I  would  kiss  his  little  hand 
And  touch  his  hair. 

While  Mary  put  the  blankets  back 
The  gentle  talk  would  soon  begin. 
And  when  I'd  tiptoe  softly  out 
I'd  meet  the  wise  men  going  in. 


ORPHEUS 

He  could  sing  sweetly  on  a  string. 
He'd  make  the  music  curve  around; 
He'd  make  it  tremble  through  the  woods 
And  all  the  trees  would  leave  the  ground. 

The  tunes  would  walk  on  steps  of  air, 
For  in  his  hand  a  wire  would  smg; 
The  songs  would  fly  like  wild  quick  geese- 
He  could  play  sweetly  on  a  string. 


If  Orpheus  would  come  today, 
Our  trees  would  lean  far  out  to  hear, 
And  they  would  stretch  limb  after  limb; 
Then  the  ellum  trees  would  leave  the  ground, 
And  the  sycamores  would  follow  him. 

And  the  poplar  tree  and  the  locust  tree 
And  the  coffeeberry  tree  would  come 
And  all  the  rows  of  osage  thorns, 
And  then  the  little  twisted  plum. 


ELIZABETH  MADOX  ROBERTS  323 

He'd  lead  them  off  across  the  hill.  And  it  would  reach  up  toward  his  ear 

They'd  flow  like  water  toward  his  feet.  To  hear  the  music  in  his  mind. 
He'd  walk  through  fields  and  turn  in  roads; 

He'd  bring  them  down  our  street.  And  when  the  road  turned  by  the  kiln, 

Then  Orpheus  would  happen  to  see 

And  he'd  go  by  the  blacksmith  shop,  The  little  plum  and  the  sycamore 

And  one  would  say,  "Now  who  are  these?—  And  the  poplar  tree  and  the  chinabcrry  tree, 
I  wonder  who  that  fellow  is, 

And  where  he's  going  with  the  trees!"  A"d  al  th,e  rows  o£  Osa8c  dw™- 

When  he  happened  once  to  look — 

"To  the  sawmill,  likely,"  one  would  say,  "e>d  s'c  *em  ""Jing  after  him       . 

"Oh,  yes,  the  sawmill,  I  should  think."  Thrcc  birches>  and  he  d  sce  the  oak- 

And  then  he'd  cut  the  horse's  hoof  ^  h(,  wou]d  kad  them  back 

And  hammers  would  go  clm\  and  chn\.  ^  bnng  ^  ^  (o  ^  own 

+  He'd  bring  each  to  its  growing-place 

And  set  them  back  with  sound  and  sound. 
He  could  play  sweetly  on  a  wire. 

And  he  would  lean  down  near  his  lyre  He'd  fit  them  in  with  whispered  chords, 

To  hear  its  songs  unfold  and  wind,  And  tap  them  down  with  humming  words 


STRANGER 

When  Polly  lived  back  in  the  old  deep  woods, 
Sing,  sing,  sing  and  howdy,  howdy-o! 
Nobody  ever  went  by  her  door, 
Turn  a-tum  turn  and  danky,  danky-o' 

Valentine  worked  all  day  in  the  brush, 
He  grubbed  out  stumps  and  he  chopped  with  his  ax, 
He  chopped  a  clear  road  up  out  of  the  branch; 
Their  wheels  made  all  the  tracks. 

And  all  they  could  see  out  doors  were  the  trees, 
And  all  the  night  they  could  hear  the  wolves  go; 
But  one  cold  time  when  the  dark  came  on 
A  man's  voice  said,  "Hello,  there,  hello'" 

He  stood  away  by  the  black  oak  tree 

When  they  opened  the  door  in  the  halfway  light; 

He  stood  away  by  the  buttonwood  stump, 

And  Valentine  said,  "Won't  you  stay  all  night?" 

He  sat  by  the  fire  and  warmed  his  bones. 
He  had  something  hidden  down  deep  in  a  sack, 
And  Polly  watched  close  while  she  baked  her  pones; 
He  felt  of  it  once  when  she  turned  her  back — 
Polly  had  a  fear  of  his  sack. 

Nobody  lived  this  way  or  there, 

And  the  night  came  down  and  the  woods  came  dark, 

A  thin  man  sat  by  the  fire  that  night, 

And  the  cabin  pane  was  one  red  spark. 


324  ELIZABETH  MADOX  ROBERTS 

He  took  the  something  out  of  his  sack, 
When  the  candle  dimmed  and  the  logs  fell  low, 
It  was  something  dark,  as  Polly  could  see, 
Sing,  sing,  sing  and  howdy,  howdy-o  1 

Pic  held  it  up  against  his  chest, 
And  the  logs  came  bright  with  a  fresh  new  glow, 
And  it  was  a  riddle  that  was  on  his  breast, 
Turn  tunva  turn  and  danky,  danky-o! 

He  played  one  tune  and  one  tune  more; 
He  played  five  tunes  all  m  a  long  row. 
The  logs  never  heard  any  songs  before. 
Sing,  sing,  sing  and  howdy,  howdy-o! 

The  tunes  lay  down  like  drowsy  cats; 
They  tumbled  over  rocks  where  the  waterfalls  go; 
They  twinkled  in  the  sun  like  little  June  gnats; 
Turn  a-tum  turn  and  danky  dee-o' 

The  stumps  stood  back  in  Valentine's  mind; 

The  wolves  went  back  so  Polly  couldn't  see; 

She  forgot  how  they  howled  and  forgot  how  they  whined. 

Turn  turn  a-tum  and  danky-dee' 

The  tunes  flew  by  like  wild  quick  geese, 
Sing,  sing,  sing  and  howdy  howdy-o! 
And  Polly  said,  "That's  a  right  good  piece." 
Turn  turn  turn  and  danky  danky-o f 
Turn  a-tum  turn  and  danky  dee-of 


A    BALLET    SONG    OF    MARY 

Her  smock  was  of  the  holland  fine, 
Skinkled  with  colors  three; 
Her  shawl  was  of  the  velvet  blue, 
The  Queen  of  Galilee. 

Her  hair  was  yellow  like  the  wax, 
Like  the  silken  floss  fine-spun; 
The  girdle  for  her  golden  cloak 
Was  all  in  gold  bcdonc. 

She  sat  her  down  in  her  own  bower  place 
And  dressed  herself  her  hair. 
Her  gold  kemb  in  her  braid  she  laid, 
And  a  sound  fell  on  the  door. 

He  came  within  her  own  bower  room 
"Hail,  Mary,  hail  I"  says  he; 
"A  goodly  grace  is  on  your  head, 
For  the  Lord  is  now  with  thee." 


She  folded  down  her  little  white  hands 
When  Gabriel  spoke  again. 
She  set  her  shawl,  the  corners  right,* 
For  ceremony  then. 

"And  the  God  will  overshadow  thee 
And  bring  a  holy  sweven. 
Fear  not,  fear  not,"  then  Gabriel  said, 
"It's  the  God  of  the  good  high  heaven. 

"And  what  must  be  born  it  will  heal  the 

sick; 

It  will  make  a  goodly  lear; 
It  will  fettle  men  for  christentie 
And  to  keep  holy  gear." 

Then  up  then  rose  this  little  maid 
When  Gabriel's  word  was  said, 
And  out  of  the  bower  she  ran  in  haste, 
And  out  of  the  hall  she  is  sped. 

She  is  running  far  to  Zachary's  house— 
"Is  this  the  way?"  says  she. 


ELIZABETH  MADOX  ROBERTS  325 

"A  little  maid  in  haste,"  they  said,  It  will  give  men  drink  fiom  the  horn  of  the 

"Has  gone  to  the  hills  of  Judce."  wind, 

And  give  men  meat  from  the  song  of  a  bird; 

And  what  will  be  born  it  will  ope  their  eyes;  Their  cloak  they  will  get  from  the  sheen  of 

It  will  hearten  men  in  their  stcar;  the  grass, 

It  will  fettle  men  for  chnstentie  And  a  roof  from  a  singm*  word. 
And  to  have  holy  gear. 

And  when  they  come  to  the  Brig  o*  Dread, 

It  will  scourge  with  a  thong  when  those  And  they  cry,  "I  fall!  I'm  afcar'" 

make  gain                                                  '  It  will  close  their  eyes  and  gne  them  sleep 

Where  a  humble  man  should  be;  To  heal  them  outcn  their  lonesome  cheer, 

It  will  cast  the  witches  from  out  of  his  saule  When  they  come  to  the  Brig  o'  Dread. 
And  drown  them  into  the  sea. 


WOODCOCK    OF    THE    IVORY    BEAK 

Bough  of  the  plane  tree,  where  is  the  clear-beaked  bird 

That  was  promised?  When  I  walked  here,  now,  I  heard 

A  swift  cry  in  my  own  voice  lifted  in  laughter — absurd 

Mock  at  a  crow — crying  under  the  glee-wrung  woid, 

Saying,  "Where?"  Saying,  "When?"  Saying,  "Will  it  be?  Here? 

The  woodcock  of  the  ivory  bill?  Will  it  be?  Where?" 

Old  winds  that  blew  deep  chaos  down  through  the  valley, 
Moan-haunted,  sob-tosoed,  shudder  and  shackle,  rout  and  rally, 
Where?  Did  you  toss  a  feather  and  bend  plume  a  cold  May  early 
Morning,  when  the  ivory  bill  shone,  song  lifted,  pearly 
Clear  on  the  rose-stippled,  blue-shadowed  trunk  of  the  plane  tree? 
Oh,  woodcock  of  the  ivory  beak,  I  came  here  to  see  ... 


Elinor  Wylie 

ELINOR  (HOYT)  WYLIE  was  born  September  7,  1885,  in  Somerville,  New  Jersey, 
but  she  was,  as  she  often  protested,  of  pure  Pennsylvania  stock.  The  family  was 
a  literary  one  and  it  was  soon  evident  that  Elinor,  the  first  born,  was  a  prodigy.  The 
facts  of  her  life,  if  not  the  inner  conflicts  and  personal  sufferings,  have  been  recorded 
by  Nancy  Hoyt,  her  younger  sister,  in  Elinor  Wylie'  The  Pot  trait  of  an  Unknown 
Woman  (1935),  and,  though  the  biography  might  have  been  fuller  and  franker 
without  diminishing  the  poet's  stature,  it  is  invaluable  source  material.  On  both 
sides  Elinor  Wylie  traced  her  ancestry  back  through  old  American  families.  A 
grandfather  was  Governor  of  Pennsylvania;  her  father,  at  the  age  of  thirty-six,  was 
Assistant  Attorney-General  under  McKinley,  later  Solicitor  General  during  Theodore 
Roosevelt's  administration. 

Elinor  Hoyt's  youth  was  spent  in  Washington,  D.  C.  At  eighteen  she  attended 
a  life-class  at  the  Corcoran  Museum  of  Art,  composing  poems  in  secret,  and  waver- 
ing between  painting  and  writing  as  a  possible  career.  Shortly  after  her  "corning* 


326  ELINOR   WYLIE 

out  party"  there  was  a  youthful  romance  and,  disappointed  because  it  was  incon- 
clusive, Elinor  "rushed  off  and,  without  the  knowledge  of  her  parents,  became 
engaged  to  a  nice-looking  and  well-born  young  suitor  with  a  bad  temper,"  Philip 
Hichborn,  son  of  an  admiral.  A  son  was  born  of  the  union,  but  the  marriage  was 
an  unhappy  one.  Three  years  after,  when  scarcely  twenty-four,  she  eloped  with 
Horace  Wylie,  unable  to  obtain  a  divorce,  disrupting  the  social  circles  in  which 
she  had  conducted  herself  so  primly.  Elinor  and  Horace  Wylie  lived  in  England, 
where  they  were  married  some  years  later,  until  the  World  War  forced  them  to 
return  to  America.  It  was  in  England  that  her  first  work  wa^  published,  a  tiny  book 
of  forty-three  pages  entitled  Incidental  Numbers  (1912),  privately  printed  and  un- 
signed. It  is  a  tentative  collection  and  Elinor  was  so  sensitive  about  its  "incredible 
immaturity"  that  she  pleaded  with  the  few  who  knew  of  its  existence  never  to  refer 
to  it  until  after  her  death.  But  she  had  no  reason  to  be  ashamed  of  it.  ("I  think  the 
juvenilia  superior  to  the  rest,"  she  wrote  to  the  editor  many  years  later.)  Much  of  it 
is  manifestly  immature,  since  most  of  it  was  written  in  her  early  twenties  and  the 
rest  was  the  product  of  her  teens.  Yet  her  characteristic  touch — the  firm  thought 
matched  by  the  firmly  molded  line — is  already  suggested,  especially  in  such  poems 
as  "The  Knight  Fallen  on  Evil  Days,"  anticipating  the  later  beautifully  knit  sonnets, 
and  "Pegasus  Lost,"  a  strangely  ironic  fantasy  written  at  seventeen. 

She  returned  to  America  in  the  summer  of  1916,  and  lived  in  Boston  and  in 
Mount  Desert,  Maine.  Her  poems  began  to  appear  in  the  magazines;  she  moved  to 
Washington,  where  she  met  various  friends  of  her  brother  Henry,  including  William 
Rose  Benct.  In  1921  her  first  "real"  volume,  Nets  to  Catch  the  Wind,  appeared. 
Three  years  later  she  was  a  famous  person,  the  author  of  two  volumes  of  poems 
and  an  extraordinary  first  novel  (Jennifer  Loin),  married  to  William  Rose  Benet,  and 
part  of  the  literary  life  of  New  York. 

Nets  to  Catch  the  Wind  impresses  immediately  because  of  its  brilliance.  The  bril- 
liance is  one  which,  at  first,  seems  to  sparkle  without  burning.  In  several  of  the 
poems  the  author  achieves  a  frigid  ecstasy;  emotion  is  not  absent  from  her  lines,  but 
too  frequently  it  seems  a  passion  frozen  at  its  source.  It  is  the  brilliance  of  moon- 
light coruscating  on  a  plain  of  ice.  But  if  Mis.  Wylie  seldom  allows  her  verses  to 
grow  agitated,  she  never  permits  them  to  remain  dull.  As  a  technician,  she  is 
always  admirable;  in  "August"  the  sense  of  heat  is  conveyed  by  tropic  luxuriance 
and  contrast;  in  "The  Eagle  and  the  Mole"  she  lifts  didacticism  to  a  proud  level. 
Her  auditory  effects  arc  scarcely  less  remarkable;  never  has  snow-silence  been  more 
unerringly  communicated  than  in  "Velvet  Shoes." 

Blac\  Atnwur  (1923)  exhibits  Mrs.  Wylie's  keenness  against  a  mellower  back- 
ground. The  beauty  evoked  in  this  volume  no  longer  has  "the  hard  heart  of  a 
child."  The  intellect  has  grown  more  fiery,  the  mood  has  grown  warmer,  and  the 
craftsmanship  is  more  dazzling  than  ever.  This  devotee  of  severe  elegance  has  per- 
fected an  accent  which  is  clipped  and  patrician;  she  varies  the  perfect  modulation 
with  rhymes  that  are  delightfully  acrid  and  unique  departures  which  never  fail  of 
success.  Mrs.  Wylie,  it  is  evident  from  the  very  titles  of  her  volumes,  had  read  the 
metaphysicans;  Donne,  Webster,  and  Eliot  found  a  voice  in  her  lines.  She  felt 

"behind  a  carnal  mesh, 
The  clean  bones  crying  in  the  flesh." 


ELINOR   WYLIE  J2; 

Possibly  the  most  obvious  and  arresting  feature  of  her  work  is  the  variety  of  her 
gifts.  She  reached  from  the  nimble  dexterity  of  a  rondo  like  "Peregrine"  to  the  in- 
trospective poignance  of  "Self  Portrait,"  from  the  fanciful  "Escape"  to  the  grave 
mockery  of  "Let  No  Charitable  Hope."  But  a  greater  unfoldment  was  to  come. 

Trivial  Breath  (1928)  is  the  work  of  a  poet  in  transition.  At  times  the  craftsman  is 
uppermost;  at  times  the  creative  genius.  A  preoccupation  with  her  material  obscures 
the  half-uttered  wisdom.  Many  of  the  verses,  steeped  in  literature,  pay  homage  to 
the  letter;  a  smaller  number,  less  absorbed  in  shaping  an  immaculate  phrase,  do 
r&verence  to  the  spirit.  Mrs.  Wylie  recognized  the  danger  of  her  own  cxquisiteness, 
of  a  style  where  elegance  was  too  often  a  richly  embroidered  cloak  draped  upon  a 
neat  triviality.  In  "Minotaur"  she  admonished  herself: 

Go  study  to  disdain 
The  frail,  the  overfine 
That  tapers  to  a  line 
Knotted  about  the  brain. 

Her  distrust  of  the  "overfine"  deepened;  she  became  more  influenced  by  the  fiery 
spirit  of  Shelley;  her  prose  grew  less  mannered  and  more  searching;  her  poetry  at- 
tained a  new  richness.  While  in  England  during  the  summer  of  1928  she  wrote,  with 
almost  breathless  haste  but  with  calm  certainty,  the  verses  which  compose  her 
posthumous  volume.  In  the  autumn  she  returned  to  America;  suffering  from  high 
blood  pressure  and  partial  paralysis,  she  began  to  arrange  her  final  work.  The  day 
before  she  died  she  decided  on  the  order  of  the  poems,  afBxcd  the  motto  from 
Donne,  and  got  the  manuscript  ready  for  the  printer.  She  died  December  16,  1928. 

Angels  and  Earthly  Creatures  (1929)  is  the  sublimation  of  all  her  gifts.  Here  arc 
the  cunningly  poised  and  polished  syllables,  here  are  the  old  concerns  with  freezing 
silvers,  frail  china,  and  pea*rly  monotones,  but  here  is  a  quality  which  lifts  them 
high  above  themselves.  Still  indebted  to  the  Jacobean  metaphysicians,  the  poet 
transcends  her  influences  and  develops  a  highly  personal  mysticism.  To  say  that  her 
emotion  is  governed  and  disciplined  is  not  to  say  that  An  gels  and  Einthly  Ctccttuies 
suffers  from  a  lack  of  emotion.  On  the  contrary,  the  sequence  of  nineteen  sonnets 
has  the  spontaneity  of  a  passionate  improvisation,  of  something  close  to  abandon- 
ment. The  other  poems  share  this  intensity.  "This  Corruptible"  is  both  visionary  and 
philosophic;  "O  Virtuous  Light"  deals  with  that  piercing  clarity,  the  intuition  which 
disturbs  the  senses,  threatens  reason  and,  "begotten  of  itself,"  unreconciled  to  ordi- 
nary experience,  is  "not  a  light  by  which  to  live."  The  other  poems  are  scarcely  less 
uplifted,  finding  their  summit  in  "Hymn  to  Earth,"  which  is  possibly  the  deepest 
of  her  poems  and  one  which  is  certain  to  endure.  It  was,  as  it  happened,  a  clear 
premonition;  it  remains  a  noble  valedictory.  She  could  go  no  further.  She  had  per- 
fected her  technique;  without  discarding  her  idiom,  her  spirit  reached  toward  a  final 
expression.  She  had  suddenly  attained  the  emotional  stature  of  a  great  poet. 

A  sumptuous  Collected  Poems  of  Elinor  Wylie  was  published  in  1932,  containing, 
with  the  exception  of  the  booklet  issued  in  England,  her  four  books  of  poems  as  well 
as  a  section  of  forty-eight  poems  hitherto  uncollected.  Some  of  the  posthumous  verse 
had  never  seen  print;  others  published  in  magazines — notably  "Golden  Bough" 
and  "The  Pebble" — may  be  ranked  among  the  poet's  ripest  utterances.  "The  Pebble" 


328  ELINOR   WYL1E 

is  significant  not  only  as  a  fine  piece  of  craftsmanship  but  as  a  revealing  bit  of 
spiritual  autobiography. 

Though  more  mannered  than  her  verse,  her  prose  was  scarcely  less  accomplished. 
Jennifer  Lorn  (1923),  subtitled  "A  Sedate  Extravaganza,"  The  Venetian  Glass 
Nephew  (1925),  and  The  Orphan  Angel  (1926)  adroitly  juggle  a  harlequin  style, 
even  when  it  is  least  appropriate  to  the  matter.  Mr.  Hodge  and  Mr.  Hazard  is  a 
somewhat  more  serious  and  ironic  allegory.  Differing  widely  from  each  other  in  plot, 
ranging  from  macabre  artifice  to  an  apocryphal  legend  of  Shelley  redivivus  in 
America,  the  manipulation  of  these  novels  is  always  deft  and  the  iridescent  phrasing 
is  the  product  of  an  unusually  "jeweled"  brain.  An  omnibus  volume  Collected  Prose 
of  Elinor  Wyhc  (1933)  includes  the  four  novels  besides  ten  uncollccted  short 
stories  and  essays  introduced  by  William  Rose  Benet  in  the  section  "Fugitive  Prose." 
Although  one  must  admire  the  fine-spun  filigree  of  Jennifer  Loin  and  the  delicate 
diablerie  of  The  Venetian  Glass  Nephew,  even  the  height  of  her  prose  cannot  match 
the  peaks  attained  by  such  poems  as  "This  Corruptible,"  "Hymn  to  Earth"  and 
"O  Virtuous  Light." 

For  it  was  as  a  poet  that  Elinor  Wyhe  was  most  at  home  in  the  world,  and  it  is 
as  a  poet  that  she  will  be  remembered.  Whether  she  spins  a  web  of  words  to  catch 
an  elusive  whimsicality,  or  satirizes  herself,  or  plunges  from  the  fragmentary  to  the 
profound,  every  line  bears  her  authentic  stamp.  The  intellectual  versatility  is  even- 
tually rccnforced  by  spiritual  strength,  insuring  permanence  to  work  which  "pre- 
serves a  shape  utterly  its  own." 


THE    EAGLE    AND    THE    MOLE 

Avoid  the  recking  herd, 
Shun  the  polluted  flock, 
Live  like  that  stoic  bird, 
The  eagle  of  the  rock. 

The  huddled  warmth  of  crowds 
Begets  and  fosters  hate; 
He  keeps,  above  the  clouds, 
His  cliff  inviolate. 

When  flocks  arc  folded  warm, 
And  herds  to  shelter  run, 
He  sails  above  the  storm, 
He  stares  into  the  sun. 


If  in  the  eagle's  track 
Your  sinews  cannot  leap, 
Avoid  the  lathered  pack, 
Turn  from  the  steaming  sheep. 

If  you  would  keep  your  soul 
From  spotted  sight  or  sound, 
Live  like  the  velvet  mole; 
Go  burrow  underground. 

And  there  hold  intercourse 
With  roots  of  trees  and  stones^ 
With  rivers  at  their  source, 
And  disembodied  bones. 


THE  KNIGHT  FALLEN  ON  EVIL  DAYS 

God  send  the  Devil  is  a  gentleman, 
Else  had  I  none  amongst  mine  enemies! 
O  what  uncouth  and  cruel  times  are  these 
In  which  the  unlettered  Boor  and  Artisan, 
The  snarling  Priest  and  smirking  Lawyer  can 
Spit  filthy  enmity  at  whom  they  please — 
At  one,  returned  from  spilling  overseas 
The  Princely  blood  of  foes  Olympian. 


ELINOR  WYLIE  329 

Apothecaries  curse  me,  who  of  late 

Was  cursed  by  Kings  for  slaughtering  French  lords ' 

Friendless  and  lovcrless  is  my  estate, 

Yet  God  be  praised  that  Hell  at  least  ailords 

An  adversary  worthy  of  my  hate, 

With  whom  the  Angels  deigned  to  measure  swords! 


PEGASUS    LOST 

And  there  I  found  a  gray  and  ancient  ass, 

With  dull  glazed  stare,  and  stubborn  wrinkled  smile, 

Sardonic,  mocking  my  widc-cycd  amaze. 

A  clumsy  hulking  form  in  that  white  place 

At  odds  with  the  small  stable,  cleanly,  Greek, 

The  marble  manger  and  the  golden  oats. 

With  loathing  hands  I  felt  the  ass's  side, 

Solidly  real  and  hairy  to  the  touch. 

Then  knew  I  that  I  dreamed  not,  but  saw  truth; 

And  knowing,  wished  I  still  might  hope  I  dreamed. 

The  door  stood  wide,  I  went  into  the  air. 

The  day  was  blue  and  filled  with  rushing  wind, 

A  day  to  ride  high  in  the  heavens  and  taste 

The  glory  of  the  gods  who  tread  the  stars. 

Up  in  the  mighty  purity  I  saw 

A  flashing  shape  that  gladly  sprang  aloft — 

My  little  Pegasus,  like  a  far  white  bird 

Seeking  sun-regions,  never  to  return. 

Silently  then  I  turned  my  steps  about, 

Entered  the  stable,  saddled  the  slow  ass; 

Then  on  its  back  I  journeyed  dustily 

Between  sun-wilted  hedgerows  into  town. 


MADMAN    S    SONG 

Better  to  see  your  cheek  grown  hollow, 
Better  to  see  your  temple  worn, 
Than  to  forget  to  follow,  follow, 
After  the  sound  of  a  silver  horn. 

Better  to  bind  your  brow  with  willow 

And  follow,  follow  until  you  die, 

Than  to  sleep  with  your  head  on  a  golden  pillow, 

Nor  lift  it  up  when  the  hunt  goes  by. 

Better  to  see  your  cheek  grown  sallow 
And  your  hair  grown  gray,  so  soon,  so  soon, 
Than  to  forget  to  hallo,  hallo, 
After  the  milk-white  hounds  of  the  moon. 


'330 


ELINOR   WYLIE 


SANCTUARY 

This  is  the  bricklayer;  hear  the  thud 
Of  his  heavy  load  dumped  down  on  stone. 
His  lustrous  bricks  are  brighter  than  blood, 
His  smoking  mortar  whiter  than  bone. 

Set  each  sharp-edged,  fire-bitten  brick 
Straight  by  the  plumb-line's  shivering  length; 
Make  my  marvelous  wall  so  thick 
Dead  nor  living  may  shake  its  strength. 

Full  as  a  crystal  cup  with  drink 
Is  my  cell  with  dreams,  and  quiet,  and  cool.  . 
Stop,  old  man'  You  must  leave  a  chink; 
How  can  I  breathe?  You  cant,  you  fool! 


VELVET    SHOES 

Let  us  walk  in  the  white  snow 
In  a  soundless  space; 

With  footsteps  quiet  and  slow, 
At  a  tranquil  pace, 
Under  veils  of  white  lace. 

I  shall  go  shod  in  silk, 

And  you  in  wool, 
White  as  a  white  cow's  milk, 

More  beautiful 

Than  the  breast  of  a  gull. 

We  shall  walk  through  the  still  town 

In  a  windless  peace; 
We  shall  step  upon  white  down, 

Upon  silver  fleece, 

Upon  softer  than  these. 

We  shall  walk  in  velvet  shoes: 
Wherever  we  go 


Silence  will  fall  like  dews 
On  white  silence  below. 
We  shall  walk  in  the  snow. 


ESCAPE 

When  foxes  eat  the  last  gold  grape, 
And  the  last  white  antelope  is  killed, 
I  shall  stop  fighting  and  escape 
Into  a  little  house  I'll  build. 

But  first  I'll  shrink  to  fairy  size, 
With  a  whisper  no  one  understands, 
Making  blind  moons  of  all  your  eyes, 
And  muddy  roads  of  all  your  hands. 

And  you  may  grope  for  me  in  vain 
In  hollows  under  the  mangrove  root, 
Or  where,  in  apple-scented  rain, 
The  silver  wasp-nests  hang  like  fruit. 


GOLDEN    BOUGH 

These  lovely  groves  of  fountain-trees  that  shake 
A  burning  spray  against  autumnal  cool, 

Descend  again  in  molten  drops  to  make 
The  rutted  path  a  river  and  a  pool. 

They  rise  in  silence,  fall  in  quietude, 
Lie  still  as  looking-glass  to  every  sense; 

Only  their  lion-color  in  the  wood 

Roars  to  miraculous  heat  and  turbulence. 


ELINOR  WYLIE  331 

AUGUST 

Why  should  this  Negro  insolently  stride 
Down  the  red  noonday  on  such  noiseless  feet? 
Piled  in  his  barrow,  tawnier  than  wheat, 
Lie  heaps  of  smoldering  daisies,  somber-eyed, 
Their  copper  petals  shriveled  up  with  pride, 
Hot  with  a  superfluity  of  heat, 
Like  a  great  brazier  borne  along  the  street 
By  captive  leopards,  black  and  burning  pied. 

Are  there  no  water-lilies,  smooth  as  cream, 
With  long  stems  dripping  crystal?  Are  there  none 
Like  those  white  lilies,  luminous  and  cool, 
Plucked  from  some  hemlock-darkened  noithcrn  stream 
By  fair-haired  swimmers,  diving  where  the  sun 
Scarce  warms  the  surface  of  the  deepest  pool? 


x  PURITANSONNET 

Down  to  the  Puritan  marrow  of  my  bones 

There's  something  in  this  richness  that  I  hate. 

I  love  the  look,  austere,  immaculate, 

Of  landscapes  drawn  in  pearly  monotones. 

There's  something  in  my  very  blood  that  owns 

Bare  hills,  cold  silver  on  a  sky  of  slate, 

A  thread  of  water,  churned  to  milky  spate 

Streaming  through  slanted  pastures  fenced  with  stones. 

I  love  those  skies,  thin  blue  01  snowy  gray, 

Those  fields  sparse-planted,  rendering  meager  sheaves; 

That  spring,  briefer  than  apple-blossom's  breath, 

Summer,  so  much  too  beautiful  to  stay, 

Swift  autumn,  like  a  bonfire  of  leaves, 

And  sleepy  winter,  like  the  sleep  of  death. 

NEBUCHADNEZZAR 

My  body  is  weary  to  death  of  my  mischievous  brain; 
I  am  weary  forever  and  ever  of  being  brave; 
Therefore  I  crouch  on  my  knees  while  the  cool  white  rain 
Curves  the  clover  over  my  head  like  a  wave. 

The  stem  and  the  frosty  seed  of  the  grass  are  ripe; 

I  have  devoured  their  strength;  I  have  drunk  them  deep; 

And  the  dandelion  is  gall  in  a  thin  green  pipe, 

But  the  clover  is  honey  and  sun  and  the  smell  of  sleep. 


3J2  ELINOR   WYLIE 

LET    NO    CHARITABLE    HOPE 

Now  let  no  charitable  hope 
Confuse  my  mind  with  images 
Of  eagle  and  of  antelope; 
I  am  in  nature  none  of  these. 

I  was,  being  human,  born  alone; 
I  am,  being  woman,  hard  beset; 
I  live  by  squeezing  from  a  stone 
The  little  nourishment  I  get. 

In  masks  outrageous  and  austere 

The  years  go  by  in  single  file; 

But  none  has  merited  my  fear, 

And  none  has  quite  escaped  my  smile. 


CONFESSION     OF     FAITH 

I  lack  the  braver  mind 

That  dares  to  find 

The  lover  friend,  and  kind. 

I  fear  him  to  the  bone; 

I  lie  alone 

By  the  beloved  one, 

And,  breathless  for  suspense, 
Erect  defense 
Against  love's  violence 

Whose  silences  portend 

A  bloody  end 

For  lover  never  friend. 

But,  in  default  of  faith, 

In  futile  breath, 

I  dream  no  ill  of  Death. 


IS     A     DELICATE 

Sorrow  lay  upon  my  breast  more  heavily  than  winter  clay 

Lying  ponderable  upon  the  unmoving  bosom  of  the  dead; 

Yet  it  was  dissolved  like  a  thin  snowfall;  it  was  softly  withered  away; 

Presently  like  a  single  drop  of  dew  it  had  trembled  and  fled. 

This  sorrow,  which  seemed  heavier  than  a  shovelful  of  loam, 
Was  gone  like  water,  like  a  web  of  delicate  frost; 
It  was  silent  and  vanishing  like  smoke;  it  was  scattered  like  foam; 
Though  my  mind  should  desire  to  preserve  it,  nevertheless  it  is  lost. 


ELINOR.  WYLIE 

This  sorrow  was  not  like  sorrow;  it  was  shining  and  brief; 
Even  as  I  waked  and  was  aware  of  its  going,  it  was  past  and  gone; 
It  was  not  earth;  it  was  no  more  than  a  light  leaf, 
Or  a  snowflake  in  spring,  which  perishes  upon  stone. 

This  sorrow  was  small  and  vulnerable  and  short-lived; 
It  was  neither  earth  nor  stone;  it  was  silver  snow 
Fallen  from  heaven,  perhaps;  it  has  not  survived 
An  hour  of  the  sun;  it  is  sad  it  should  be  so. 

This  sorrow,  which  I  believed  a  gravestone  over  my  heart, 

Is  gone  like  a  cloud;  it  eluded  me  as  I  woke; 

Its  crystal  dust  is  suddenly  broken  and  blown  apart; 

It  was  not  my  heart;  it  was  this  poor  sorrow  alone  which  broke. 


PETER    AND    JOHN 

Twelve  good  friends 
Walked  under  the  leaves 
Binding  the  ends 
Of  the  barley  sheaves. 

Peter  and  John 
Lay  down  to  sleep 
Pillowed  upon 
A  haymaker's  heap. 

John  and  Peter 
Lay  down  to  dream. 
The  air  was  sweeter 
Than  honey  and  cream. 

Peter  was  bred 
In  the  salty  cold. 
His  hair  was  red 
And  his  eyes  were  gold. 

John  had  a  mouth 
Like  a  wing  bent  down. 
His  brow  was  smooth 
And  his  eyes  were  brown. 

Peter  to  slumber 
Sank  like  a  stone, 
Of  all  their  number 
The  bravest  one. 

John  more  slowly 
Composed  himself, 
Young  and  holy 
Among  the  Twelve. 


John  as  he  slept 
Cried  out  in  grief, 
Turned  and  wept 
On  the  golden  leaf: 

"Peter,  Peter, 
Stretch  me  your  hand 
Across  the  glitter 
Of  the  harvest  land! 

"Peter,  Peter, 
Give  me  a  sign! 
This  was  a  bitter 
Dream  of  mine, — 

"Bitter  as  aloes 
It  parched  my  tongue. 
Upon  the  gallows 
My  life  was  hung. 

"Sharp  it  seemed 
As  a  bloody  sword. 
Peter,  I  dreamed 
I  was  Christ  the  Lord!" 

Peter  turned 
To  holy  Saint  John: 
His  body  burned 
In  the  falling  sun. 

In  the  falling  sun 
He  burned  like  flame: 
"John,  Saint  John, 
I  have  dreamed  the  same! 


334 


"My  bones  were  hung 
On  an  elder  tree; 
Bells  were  rung 
Over  Galilee. 

"A  silver  penny 
Sealed  each  of  my  eyes. 
Many  and  many 
A  cock  crew  thrice." 

When  Peter's  word 
Was  spoken  and  done, 
"Were  you  Christ  the  Lord 
In  your  dream ?"  said  John. 

"No,"  said  the  other, 
"That  T  was  not. 
I  was  our  brother 
Iscariot." 


FULL    MOON 

My  bands  of  silk  and  miniver 
Momently  grew  heavier; 
The  black  gauze  was  beggarly  thin; 
The  ermine  mufHed  mouth  and  chin; 
I  could  not  suck  the  moonlight  in. 

Harlequin  in  lozenges 
Of  love  and  hate,  I  walked  in  these 
Striped  and  ragged  rigmaroles; 
Along  the  pavement  my  footsoles 
Trod  wanly  on  living  coals. 


ELINOR   WYL1E 

Shouldering  the  thoughts  I  loathed, 
In  their  corrupt  disguises  clothed, 
Mortality  I  could  not  tear 
From  my  ribs,  to  leave  them  bare 
Ivory  in  silver  air. 

There  I  walked  and  there  I  raged; 
The  spiritual  savage  caged 
Within  my  skeleton,  raged  afresh 
To  feel,  behind  a  carnal  mesh, 
The  clean  bones  crying  in  the  flesh. 


EPITAPH 

For  this  she  starred  her  eyes  with  salt 
And  scooped  her  temples  thin, 
Until  her  face  shone  pure  of  fault 
From  the  forehead  to  the  chin. 

In  coldest  crucible  of  pain 
Her  shrinking  flesh  was  fired 
And  smoothed  into  a  finer  gram 
To  make  it  more  desired. 

Pain  left  her  lips  more  clear  than  glass; 
It  colored  and  cooled  her  hand. 
She  lay  a  field  of  scented  grass 
Yielded  as  pasture  land. 

For  this  her  loveliness  was  curved 
And  carved  as  silver  is: 
For  this  she  was  brave:  but  she  deserved 
A  better  grave  than  this. 


BIRTHDAY    SONNET 

Take  home  Thy  prodigal  child,  O  Lord  of  Hosts! 

Protect  the  sacred  from  the  secular  danger; 

Advise  her,  that  Thou  never  needst  avenge  her; 

Marry  her  mind  neither  to  man's  nor  ghost's 

Nor  holier  domination's,  if  the  costs 

Of  such  commingling  should  transport  or  change  her; 

Defend  her  from  familiar  and  stranger, 

And  earth's  and  air's  contagions  and  rusts. 

Instruct  her  strictly  to  preserve  Thy  gift 
And  alter  not  its  grain  in  atom  sort; 
Angels  may  wed  her  to  their  ultimate  hurt 
And  men  embrace  a  specter  in  a  shift 
So  that  no  drop  of  the  pure  spirit  fall 
Into  the  dust:  defend  Thy  prodigal. 


ELINOR  WYL1E 


335 


O    VIRTUOUS    LIGHT 

A  private  madness  has  prevailed 
Over  the  pure  and  valiant  mind; 
The  instrument  of  reason  failed 
And  the  star-gazing  eyes  "struck  blind. 

Sudden  excess  of  light  has  wrought 
Confusion  in  the  secret  place 
Where  the  slow  miracles  of  thought 
Take  shape  through  patience  into  grace. 

Mysterious  as  steel  and  flint 
The  birth  of  this  destructive  spark 
Whose  inward  growth  has  power  to  print 
Strange  suns  upon  the  natural  dark. 

O  break  the  walls  of  sense  in  half 
And  make  the  spirit  fugitive! 
This  light  begotten  of  itself 
Is  not  a  light  by  which  to  live! 

The  fire  of  farthing  tallow  dips 
Dispels  the  menace  of  the  skies 
So  it  illuminate  the  lips 
And  enter  the  discerning  eyes. 

O  virtuous  light,  if  thou  be  man's 
Or  matter  of  the  meteor  stone, 
Prevail  against  this  radiance 
Which  is  engendered  of  its  own! 


THE    PEBBLE 

If  any  have  a  stone  to  shy, 

Let  him  be  David  and  not  I; 

The  lovely  shepherd,  brave  and  vain, 

Who  has  a  maggot  in  the  brain, 

Which,  since  the  brain  is  bold  and  pliant, 

Takes  the  proportions  of  a  giant. 

Alas,  my  legendary  fate! 

Who  sometimes  rage,  but  never  hate. 

Long,  long  before  the  pebble  flieth 

I  see  a  virtue  in  Goliath; 


Yea,  in  the  Philistine  his  face, 

A  touching  majesty  and  grace; 

Then  like  the  lights  ol  evening  shine 

The  features  of  the  Philistine 

Until  my  spirit  faints  to  see 

The  beauty  of  my  enemy. 

If  any  have  a  stone  to  fling 

Let  him  be  a  shepherd-king, 

Who  is  himself  so  beautiful 

He  may  detest  the  gross  and  dull 

With  holy  rage  and  heavenly  pride 

To  make  a  pebble  sanctified 

And  leather  its  course  with  wings  of  scorn. 

But,  from  the  clay  that  1  was  born 

Until  like  corn  I  bow  to  the  sickle, 

I  am  in  hatred  false  and  fickle. 

I  am  most  cruel  to  anyone 

Who  hates  me  with  devotion; 

I  will  not  freeze,  I  will  not  burn; 

I  make  his  heart  a  poor  return 

For  all  the  passion  that  he  spends 

In  swearing  we  shall  never  be  inends; 

For  all  the  pains  his  passion  spent 

In  hatred  I  am  impotent; 

The  sad  perversity  of  my  mind 

Sees  in  him  my  km  and  kind. 

Alas,  my  shameful  heritage, 

False  in  hale  and  fickle  in  rage' 

Alas,  to  lack  the  power  to  loathe' 

I  like  them  each;  I  love  them  both; 

Philistine  and  shepherd -king 

They  strike  the  pebble  from  my  sling; 

My  heart  grows  cold,  my  spirit  grows  faint; 

Behold,  a  hero  and  a  saint 

Where  appeared,  a  moment  since, 

A  giant  and  a  heathen  prince; 

And  I  am  bound  and  given  over 

To  be  no  better  than  a  lover, 

Alas,  who  strove  as  a  holy  rebel' 

They  have  broke  my  sling  and  stole  my 

pebble: 

If  any  have  a  stone  to  throw 
It  is  not  I,  ever  or  now. 


SONNET    FROM        ONE    PERSON 

I  hereby  swear  that  to  uphold  your  house 
I  would  lay  my  bones  in  quick  destroying  lime 
Or  turn  my  flesh  to  timber  for  all  time; 
Cut  down  my  womanhood;  lop  off  the  boughs 


336  ELINOR   WYLIE 

Of  that  perpetual  ecstasy  that  grows 
From  the  heart's  core;  condemn  it  as  a  crime 
If  it  be  broader  than  a  beam,  or  climb 
Above  the  stature  that  your  roof  allows. 

I  am  not  the  hearthstone  nor  the  cornerstone 
Within  this  noble  fabric  you  have  builded; 
Not  by  my  beauty  was  its  cornice  gilded; 
Not  on  my  courage  were  its  arches  thrown: 
My  lord,  adjudge  my  strength,  and  set  me  where 
I  bear  a  little  more  than  I  can  bear. 


THIS    CORRUPTIBLE 

The  Body,  long  oppressed 

And  pierced,  then  prayed  for  rest 

(Being  but  apprenticed  to  the  other  Powers); 

And  kneeling  in  that  place 

Implored  the  thrust  of  grace 

Which  makes  the  dust  lie  level  with  the  flowers. 

Then  did  that  fellowship 

Of  three,  the  Body  strip; 

Beheld  his  wounds,  and  none  among  them  mortal; 

The  Mind  severe  and  cool; 

The  Heart  still  half  a  fool; 

The  fine-spun  Soul,  a  beam  of  sun  can  startle. 

These  three,  a  thousand  years 

Had  made  adventurers 

Amid  all  villainies  the  earth  can  offer, 

Applied  them  to  resolve 

From  the  universal  gulph 

What  pangs  the  poor  material  flesh  may  suffer. 

"This  is  a  pretty  pass; 

To  hear  the  growing  grass 

Complain;  the  clay  cry  out  to  be  translated; 

Will  not  this  grosser  stuff 

Receive  reward  enough 

If  stabled  after  laboring,  and  baited?" 

Thus  spoke  the  Mind  in  scorn. 

The  Heart,  which  had  outworn 

The  Body,  and  was  weary  of  its  fashion, 

Preferring  to  be  dressed 

In  skin  of  bird  or  beast, 

Replied  more  softly,  in  a  feigned  compassion, 

"Anatomy  most  strange 
Crying  to  chop  and  change; 


ELINOR   WYLIE  337 

Inferior  copy  of  a  higher  image; 

While  I,  the  noble  guest, 

Sick  of  your  second-best 

Sigh  for  embroidered  archangelic  plumage: 

"For  shame,  thou  fustian  cloak!" 

And  then  the  Spirit  spoke; 

Within  the  void  it  swung  securely  tethered 

By  strings  composed  of  cloud; 

It  spoke  both  low  and  loud 

Above  a  storm  no  lesser  star  had  weathered. 

"O  lodging  for  the  night! 

O  hoyse  of  my  delight! 

O  lovely  hovel  builded  for  my  pleasure! 

Dear  tenement  of  clay 

Endure  another  day 

As  cofEn  sweetly  fitted  to  my  measure. 

"Take  Heart  and  call  to  Mind 

Although  we  are  unkind; 

Although  we  steal  your  shelter,  strength,  and  clothing; 

'Tis  you  who  shall  escape 

In  some  enchanting  shape 

Or  be  dissolved  to  elemental  nothing. 

"You,  the  unlucky  slave, 

Are  the  lily  on  the  grave; 

The  wave  that  runs  above  the  bones  a -whitening; 

You  are  the  new-mown  grass; 

And  the  wheaten  bread  of  the  Mass; 

And  the  fabric  of  the  rain,  and  the  lightning. 

"If  one  of  us  elect 

To  leave  the  poor  suspect 

Imperfect  bosom  of  the  earth  our  parent; 

And  from  the  world  avert 

The  Spirit  of  the  Heart 

Upon  a  further  and  essential  errand; 

"His  chain  he  cannot  slough 

Nor  cast  his  substance  off; 

He  bears  himself  upon  his  flying  shoulder; 

The  Heart,  infirm  and  dull; 

The  Mind,  in  any  skull; 

Are  captive  still,  and  wearier  and  colder. 

"  'Tis  you  who  are  the  ghost, 

Disintegrated,  lost; 

The  burden  shed;  the  dead  who  need  not  bear  it; 

O  grain  of  God  in  power, 

Endure  another  hour! 

It  is  but  for  an  hour,"  said  the  Spirit. 


338  ELINOR  WYLIE 

HYMN    TO    EARTH 

Farewell,  incomparable  element, 

Whence  man  arose,  where  he  shall  not  return; 

And  hail,  imperfect  urn 

Of  his  last  ashes,  and  his  firstborn  fruit; 

Farewell,  the  long  pursuit, 

And  all  the  adventures  of  his  discontent; 

The  voyages  which  sent 

His  heart  averse  from  home: 

Metal  of  clay,  permit  him  that  he  come 

To  thy  slow-burning  fire  as  to  a  hearth; 

Accept  him  as  a  particle  of  earth. 

Fire,  being  divided  from  the  other  three, 

It  lives  removed,  or  secret  at  the  core; 

Most  subtle  of  the  four, 

When  air  flics  not,  nor  water  flows, 

It  disembodied  goes, 

Being  light,  elixir  of  the  first  decree, 

More  volatile  than  he; 

With  strength  and  power  to  pass 

Through  space,  where  never  his  least  atom  was: 

He  has  no  part  in  it,  save  as  his  eyes 

Have  drawn  its  emanation  from  the  skies. 

A  wingless  creature  heavier  than  air, 

He  is  rejected  of  its  quintessence; 

Coming  and  going  hence, 

In  the  twin  minutes  of  his  birth  and  death, 

He  may  inhale  as  breath, 

As  breath  relinquish  heaven's  atmosphere, 

Yet  in  it  have  no  share, 

Nor  can  survive  therein 

Where  its  outer  edge  is  filtered  pure  and  thin: 

It  doth  but  lend  its  crystal  to  his  lungs 

For  his  early  crying,  and  his  final  songs. 

The  element  of  water  has  denied 

Its  child;  it  is  no  more  his  element; 

It  never  will  relent; 

Its  silver  harvests  are  more  sparsely  given 

Than  the  rewards  of  heaven, 

And  he  shall  drink  cold  comfort  at  its  sides 

The  water  is  too  wide: 

The  scamew  and  the  gull 

Feather  a  nest  made  soft  and  pitiful 

Upon  its  foam;  he  has  not  any  part 

In  the  long  swell  of  sorrow  at  its  heart. 


ELINOR   WYLIE  339 

Hail  and  farewell,  beloved  element, 

Whence  he  departed,  and  his  parent  once; 

See  where  thy  spirit  runs 

Which  for  so  long  hath  had  the  moon  to  wife; 

Shall  this  support  his  life 

Until  the  arches  of  the  waves  be  bent 

And  grow  shallow  and  spent? 

Wisely  it  cast  him  forth 

With  his  dead  weight  of  burdens  nothing  worth, 

Leaving  him,  for  the  universal  years, 

A  little  seawater  to  make  his  tears. 

Hail,  element  of  earth,  receive  thy  own, 

And  cherish,  at  thy  charitable  breast, 

This  man,  this  mongrel  beast: 

He  plows  the  sand,  and,  at  his  hardest  need, 

He  sows  himself  for  seed; 

He  plows  the  furrow,  and  in  this  lies  down 

Before  the  corn  is  grown; 

Between  the  apple  bloom 

And  the  ripe  apple  is  sufficient  room 

In  time,  and  matter,  to  consume  his  love 

And  make  him  parcel  of  a  cypress  grove. 

Receive  him  as  thy  lover  for  an  hour 

Who  will  not  weary,  by  a  longer  stay, 

The  kind  embrace  of  clay; 

Even  within  thine  arms  he  is  dispersed 

To  nothing,  as  at  first; 

The  air  flings  downward  from  its  four-quartered  tower 

Him  whom  the  flames  devour; 

At  the  full  tide,  at  the  flood, 

The  sea  is  mingled  with  his  salty  blood: 

The  traveler  dust,  although  the  dust  be  vile, 

Sleeps  as  thy  lover  for  a  little  while. 


Ezra  Pound 

ONE  of  the  most  controversial  figures  of  the  period  and  \inquestionably  the  most 
belligerent  expatriate  of  his  generation,  Ezra  (Loomis)  Pound  was  born  at 
Hailey,  Idaho,  October  30,  1885.  A  precocious  Deader,  he  entered  the  University  of 
Pennsylvania  at  the  age  of  fifteen.  At  sixteen,  unbeknown  to  the  faculty,  he  began 
studying  comparative  literature;  before  he  was  seventeen  (in  1902)  he  enrolled  as 
special  student  "to  avoid  irrelevant  subjects."  He  continued  the  process  at  Hamilton 
College  (1903-5)  and  from  1905  to  1907  was  "Instructor  with  professorial  functions" 
at  the  University  of  Pennsylvania.  His  next  move  brought  him  to  Crawfordsville, 


340  EZRA  POUND 

Indiana — "  'the  Athens  of  the  West/  a  town  with  literary  traditions,  Lew  Wallace 
having  died  there."  Pound  was  dismissed  from  Wabash  College  after  four  months — 
"all  accusations,"  he  says,  "having  been  ultimately  refuted  save  that  of  being  'the 
Latin  Quarter  type/  " 

Though  a  born  educator,  actually  burning  to  teach,  Pound  was  compelled  to  seek 
less  academic  circles.  In  1908  he  landed  in  Gibraltar  with  eighty  dollars  and  lived 
on  the  interest  for  some  time.  The  same  year  found  him  for  the  first  time  in  Italy, 
which  was  to  become  his  future  home.  A  Lume  Spento  (1908)  was  printed  in  Venice. 
A  few  months  later  he  was  established  in  London,  where  he  lived  until  1920.  Con- 
vinced of  the  aridity  of  England,  he  crossed  over  to  Paris,  from  which,  after  four 
years,  he  moved  to  Rapallo,  on  the  Italian  Riviera,  where  he  has  lived  since  1924. 

Shortly  after  Pound's  arrival  in  London  he  published  Personae  (1909),  a  work 
which,  though  small,  contains  some  of  his  most  arresting  verse. 

Although  the  young  American  was  a  total  stranger  to  the  English  literary  world, 
his  book  made  a  definite  impression  on  critics  of  all  shades  and  tastes.  Edward 
Thomas,  one  of  the  most  cautious  appraisers,  wrote,  "The  beauty  of  it  is  the  beauty 
of  passion,  sincerity  and  intensity,  not  of  beautiful  words  and  images  and  sugges- 
tions. .  .  .  The  thought  dominates  the  words  and  is  greater  than  they  are."  Another 
critic  (Scott  James)  placed  the  chief  emphasis  on  Pound's  metrical  innovations, 
saying,  "At  first  the  whole  thing  may  seem  to  be  mere  madness  and  rhetoric,  a 
vain  exhibition  of  force  and  passion  without  beauty.  But  as  we  read  on,  these  curious 
meters  seem  to  have  a  law  and  order  of  their  own." 

Exultations  (1909)  was  printed  in  the  autumn  of  the  same  year  that  saw  the 
appearance  of  Peisonae.  It  was  received  with  even  greater  cordiality;  a  new  force  and 
freedom  were  manifest  in  such  poems  as  "Sestina:  Altaforte,"  "Ballad  of  the  Goodly 
Fere,"  and  the  stark  "Ballad  for  Gloom."  Both  books  were  repubhshed  in  a  single 
volume,  with  "other  poems,  as  Personae,  in  1926. 

In  these  books  there  is  evident  Pound's  erudition — a  familiarity  with  medieval 
literature,  Provencal  singers,  Troubadour  ballads — an  erudition  which,  later,  was  to 
degenerate  into  pedantry.  Too  often  Pound  seemed  to  become  theory-logged,  to 
sink  himself  in  an  intellectual  Sargasso  Sea,  to  be  more  the  archeologist  than  the 
artist.  Canzom  (1911)  and  Ripostes  (1912)  contain  much  that  is  sharp  and  living; 
they  also  contain  the  germs  of  desiccation  and  decay.  Pound  began  to  scatter  his 
talents;  to  start  movements  which  he  quickly  discarded  for  new  ones;  to  spend  him- 
self in  poetic  propaganda  for  the  Vorticists  and  others;  to  give  more  and  more  time 
to  translation  (The  Sonnets  of  Guido  Cavalcanti  appeared  in  1912)  and  arrange- 
ments from  the  Chinese  (Cathay,  paraphrased  from  the  notes  of  Ernest  Fenollosa, 
was  issued  in  1915);  to  lay  the  chief  stress  on  technique,  shades  of  color,  verbal 
nuances.  The  result  was  a  lassitude  of  the  creative  faculties,  an  impoverishment  of 
emotion.  In  the  later  books,  Pound  seemed  to  suffer  from  a  decadence  which  ap- 
praises the  values  in  life  chiefly  as  esthetic  values. 

Lustra  appeared  in  1916.  In  this  collection,  as  in  the  preceding  volumes,  Pound 
struggled  with  his  influences;  accents  of  Swinburne,  Browning,  Lionel  Johnson,  and 
Yeats  mingled  with  those  of  the  Provencal  poets.  From  his  immediate  predecessors 
Pound  learned  the  value  of  "verse  as  speech"  while,  as  Eliot  has  pointed  out,  from 
the  more  antiquarian  studies  Pound  was  learning  the  importance  of  "speech  a? 


EZRA  POUND  w 

song."  It  was  not  until  Hugh  Seltvyn  Mauberley  (1920)  and  the  Cantos  that  Pound 
integrated  his  own  inflection,  form,  and  philosophy. 

The  Cantos,  as  yet  unfinished,  must  be  recognized  as  Pound's  chief  work.  The 
poem  (for  the  Cantos  are  parts  of  a  loosely  connected  major  opus)  when  and  if  com- 
pleted will  comprise  about  one  hundred  "chapters."  More  than  seventy  cantos  have 
been  published:  Cantos  1-XVl  in  1925;  XVU-XXVIl  in  1928;  A  Dtaft  of  XXX  Cantos 
in  1930;  Eleven  New  Cantos:  XXXI  to  XLl  in  1934.  Complex  in  tone,  bewildering 
in  their  shiftings  of  time  and  space,  of  many  languages  and  multiple  accents,  the 
Cantos  are  easier  to  grasp  in  theory  than  in  practice.  Only  a  scholar  versed  in  many 
cultures  can  pretend  to  follow  the  digressions,  the  obscure  references,  the  self- 
interrupted  narratives,  comments,  myths,  legends,  imprecations,  jokes,  the  whole 
curious  ambivalence  which  worships  and  destroys  the  poetic  tradition  in  the  same 
movement.  Yet  the  scheme  of  the  Cantos  is  reasoned  and  even  formal:  Pound  is 
attempting  to  write  a  Human  Comedy  in  several  dimensions  and  many  voices,  using 
the  repetitions  of  history  as  recurring  leitmotifs.  The  structure  is  intended  to  be 
fugual  (with  subject,  response,  and  counter-subject)  and  Pound,  who  has  written 
music  as  well  as  words,  has  conceived  the  work  on  a  huge  scale.  It  juxtaposes  the 
jargon  of  the  modern  world  with  disrupted  quotations  and  a  vast,  even  violent, 
scholasticism. 

Critical  opinion  of  the  Cantos  was  sharply  divided.  To  many  the  indicated  pattern 
was  a  masterpiece  of  obfuscation,  a  jig-saw  puzzle  with  the  important  pieces  missing. 
"About  the  poems,"  wrote  Edward  Fitzgerald,  "there  hangs  a  dismal  mist  of  un- 
resolved confusion.  Through  that  mist  we  can  see  fact,  but  fact  historically  stated, 
enlivened  in  no  way  by  either  a  creative  or  a  critical  process."  Some  found  it  a  garble 
of  literature  and  nothing  else,  composed  of  scraps  from  newspapers,  oddments  from 
documents  difficult  of  access,  and  the  minor  classics,  all  piled  upon  each  other  with- 
out an  original  idea  or  an  experience  outside  of  print.  To  others  it  was  a  modern 
Gospel.  "One  of  the  three  great  works  of  poetry  of  our  time,"  wrote  Allen  Tate. 
Ford  Madox  Ford's  enthusiasm  was  even  less  guarded.  "The  first  words  you  have 
to  say  about  the  Cantos,"  said  Ford,  "is:  Their  extraordinary  beauty  .  .  .  They 
form  an  unparalleled  history  of  a  world  seen  from  those  shores  which  arc  the  home 
of  our  civilization."  John  Crowe  Ransom's  estimate  was  more  temperate  He  con- 
cluded, "Mr.  Pound,  in  his  capacity  of  guide  to  literature,  never  wearies  of  telling 
us  about  the  troubadour  songs  of  Provence,  which  he  reveres.  He  lays  down  the  law 
that,  the  further  the  poem  goes  from  its  original  character  of  song,  the  more  dubious 
is  its  estate.  But  what  if  we  apply  that  canon  to  the  Cantos?  The  result  is  that  we 
find  ourselves  sometimes  admiring  in  Mr.  Pound's  poetry  an  effect  of  brilliance  and 
nearly  always  missing  the  effect  of  poetry." 

Whatever  differences  arose  concerning  the  finality  of  Pound's  performance,  none 
could  dispute  the  power  of  his  influence.  The  accent  of  the  Cantos  can  be  traced 
through  Eliot's  The  Waste  Land,  Hart  Crane's  The  Fridge,  and  MacLeish's  longer 
poems,  particularly  his  Conquistador.  Moreover,  any  attempt  to  do  justice  to  Pound 
must  take  account  of  the  chronology  of  his  work  in  relation  to  others.  He  in- 
vented the  term  "Imagism"  and  organized  the  Imagist  school  long  before  the  en- 
suing period  of  exploitation.  He  published  Cathay  in  1915,  and  rendered  Certain 
Noble  Plays  of  Japan  from  the  Fenollosa  Manuscripts,  anticipating  the  flood  of 
Chinese  and  Japanese  translations  that,  soon  after,  inundated  the  country.  He 


W  EZRA  POUND 

"placed"  Tagore  as  literary  artist,  not  as  messiah,  and  saw  the  Bengalese  poet  become 
a  cult.  He  fought  for  the  musician  George  Antheil;  wrote  a  study  of  Gaudier 
Brzeska,  when  that  sculptor  was  unknown;  created  a  controversy  by  his  Provencal 
paraphrases,  expanded  his  Italian  studies  into  The  Poems  of  Guido  Cavalcanti. 

Besides  his  poetry  Pound  wrote,  translated,  and  edited  more  than  fourteen  volumes 
of  prose,  the  most  characteristic  being  A  B  C  of  Reading  (1934),  an  exposition  of  a 
critical  method;  Ma^e  it  New  (1935),  which  is  a  deceptive  title  since  all  but  one  of 
the  essays  appeared  in  Pavannes  and  Divisions  (1918)  and  Instigations  (1920);  and 
the  little  known  Imaginary  Letters. 

Pound's  voluminous  and  highly  personal  prose  Culture  (1939)  was  followed  by 
Cantos  LII-LXXI  (1940).  The  two  volumes  complement  each  other  in  their  incon- 
sistencies: in  historical  oddities  and  elliptical  references,  in  erratic  philosophy  and 
objectionable  politics.  Pound's  increasing  bias  against  America  developed  into  an 
attack  on  all  democracies;  he  championed  Fascism,  even  to  the  extent  of  becoming 
its  protagonist  via  the  official  Italian  short-wave  radio.  The  Cantos  grow  pedantic 
and  petulant.  They  represent  an  ever-growing  flux  of  Greek  myth,  Chinese  culture, 
medieval  usury  and  local  history.  Hitherto  it  was  conjectured  that  the  architecture 
of  the  Cantos  was  that  of  a  fugue;  but  the  latest  annotator  (with  Pound's  sanction) 
refers  to  it  as  a  Commedia.  We  are  told  that  the  Greek,  Renaissance,  and  World 
War  episodes  are  the  Inferno;  the  history  of  money  and  banking  form  the  Purga- 
torio;  while  the  Cantos  to  come  will  construct  the  Paradiso.  Finally  we  are  gravely 
informed  that,  whereas  most  English  verse  is  written  in  iambic  meter,  the  Cantos 
have  a  great  number  of  feet  which  are  trochaic,  dactylic,  anapcstic,  and  spondaic, 
and  that  this  results  in  "nothing  less  than  a  revolution  in  English  versification,  a 
new  basis  for  the  writing  of  poetry." 

In  his  argumentative  introduction  to  The  Oxford  Eoo\  of  Modern  Verse  Yeats 
maintained  that,  although  Eza  Pound  had  more  style  than  any  contemporary  poet, 
his  style  was  constantly  broken  and  "twisted  into  nothing  by  its  direct  opposite: 
nervous  obsession,  nightmare,  stammering  confusion."  Conceding  Pound's  influence, 
Yeats  concluded  that  Pound  was  ua  brilliant  improvisator  translating  at  sight  from 
an  unknown  Greek  masterpiece."  It  is  an  apt  epigram  if  an  incomplete  disposal. 
In  all  of  Pound's  work,  from  the  clipped  products  of  his  Imagist  period  to  the 
gathering  bulk  of  the  Cantos  there  is  the  feeling  of  brilliant  (if  inaccurate)  transla- 
tion, the  air  of  antiquity  lovingly  disguised  as  advanced  thinking. 

Too  special  to  achieve  permanence,  too  arrogant  and  erudite  to  become  popular, 
Pound's  contribution  to  the  period  should  not  be  underestimated.  He  was  a  pioneer 
in  the  new  forms;  he  fought  dullness  wherever  he  encountered  it;  he  experimented 
in  a  poetic  speech  which  was  alive  and  essentially  his  own.  This  new  tone  and 
technique  helped  broaden  a  path  recognized  by  a  few  and  unacknowledged  by 
many  who  followed  the  trail  nonchalantly,  unconscious  of  who  had  blazed  it.  Much 
of  Pound's  art  is  difficult,  much  of  it  is  poetry  in  pantomime,  but  even  the  dumb- 
show  and  the  difficulties  are  significant. 


y  AN    IMMORALITY 

Sing  we  for  love  and  idleness, 
Naught  else  is  worth  the  having. 


EZRA  POUND  343 

Though  I  have  been  in  many  a  land, 
There  is  naught  else  in  living. 

And  I  would  rather  have  my  sweet, 
Though  rose-leaves  die  of  grieving, 

Than  do  high  deeds  in  Hungary 
To  pass  all  men's  believing. 


A    VIRGINAL 

No,  no!  Go  from  me.  I  have  left  her  lately. 

I  will  not  spoil  my  sheath  with  lesser  brightness, 

For  my  surrounding  air  has  a  new  lightness; 

Slight  are  her  arms,  yet  they  have  bound  me  straitly 

And  left  me  cloaked  as  with  a  gauze  of  ether; 

As  with  sweet  leaves;  as  with  a  subtle  clearness. 

Oh,  I  have  picked  up  magic  in  her  nearness 

To  sheathe  me  half  in  half  the  things  that  sheathe  her. 

No,  no!  Go  from  me.  I  have  still  the  flavor, 

Soft  as  spring  wind  that's  come  from  birchen  bowers. 

Green  come  the  shoots,  aye  April  in  the  branches, 

As  winter's  wound  with  her  sleight  hand  she  staunches, 

Hath  of  the  trees  a  likeness  of  the  savor: 

As  white  their  bark,  so  white  this  lady's  hours. 


BALLAD    FOR    GLOOM 

For  God,  our  God  is  a  gallant  foe 
That  playeth  behind  the  veil. 

I  have  loved  my  God  as  a  child  at  heart 
That  seeketh  deep  bosoms  for  rest, 
I  have  loved  my  God  as  a  maid  to  man — 
But  lo,  this  thing  is  best: 

To  love  your  God  as  a  gallant  foe  that  plays  behind  the  veil; 
To  meet  your  God  as  the  night  winds  meet  beyond  Arcturus'  pale. 

I  have  played  with  God  for  a  woman, 
I  have  staked  with  my  God  for  truth, 
I  have  lost  to  my  God  as  a  man,  clear-eyed — 
His  dice  be  not  of  ruth. 

For  I  am  made  as  a  naked  blade, 
But  hear  ye  this  thing  in  sooth: 

Who  loseth  to  God  as  man  to  man 

Shall  win  at  the  turn  of  the  game. 
I  have  drawn  my  blade  where  the  lightnings  meet 


314 


EZRA  POUND 


But  the  ending  is  the  same: 
Who  loseth  to  God  as  the  sword  blades  lose 
Shall  win  at  the  end  of  the  game. 

For  Cod,  our  God  is  a  gallant  foe  that  playeth  behind  the  veil. 
Whom  God  deigns  not  to  overthrow  hath  need  of  triple  mail. 


GREEK    EPIGRAM 

Day  and  night  are  never  weary, 
Nor  yet  is  God  of  creating 
For  day  and  night  their  4:orch-bearers 
The  aube  and  the  crepuscule. 

So,  when  I  weary  of  praising  the  dawn  and 
the  sunset, 

Let  me  be  no  more  counted  among  the  im- 
mortals; 

But  number  me  amid  the  wearying  ones, 

Let  me  be  a  man  as  the  herd, 

And  as  the  slave  that  is  given  In  barter. 


BALLAD    OF    THE    GOODLY    FERE 

(Simon  Zdotes  spea\eth  it  somewhde  after 
the  Crucifixion) 

Ha'  we  lost  the  goodliest  fere  o'  all 
For  the  priests  and  the  gallows  tree? 
Aye,  lover  he  was  of  brawny  men, 
O'  ships  and  the  open  sea. 

When  they  came  wi'  a  host  to  take  Our  Man 
His  smile  was  good  to  see, 
"First  let  these  go!"  quo'  our  Goodly  Fere, 
"Or  I'll  see  ye  damned,"  says  he. 

Aye,  he  sent  us  out  through  the  crossed  high 

spears, 

And  the  scorn  of  his  laugh  rang  free, 
"Why  took  ye  not  me  when  I  walked  about 
Alone  in  the  town?"  says  he. 

Oh  we  drank  his  "Hale"  in  the  good  red 

wine 

When  we  last  made  company, 
No  capon  priest  was  the  Goodly  Fere 
But  a  man  o'  men  was  he. 

I  ha*  seen  him  drive  a  hundred  men 
Wi'  a  bundle  o'  cords  swung  free, 

1  Fere  =:  Mate,  Companion. 


When  they  took  the  high  and  holy  house 
For  their  pawn  and  treasury. 

They'll  no  get  him  a*  in  a  book  I  think 

Though  they  write  it  cunningly; 

No  mouse  of  the  scrolls  was  the  Goodly 

Fere 
But  aye  loved  the  open  sea. 

If  they  think  they  ha*  snared  our  Goodly  Fere 
They  are  fools  to  the  last  degree. 
"I'll  go  to  the  feast,"  quo'  our  Goodly  Fere, 
"Though  I  go  to  the  gallows  tree." 

"Ye  ha*  seen  me  heal  the  lame  and  the  blind, 
And  wake  the  dead,"  says  he, 
"Ye  shall  see  one  thing  to  master  all: 
'Tis  how  a  brave  man  dies  on  the  tree." 

A  son  of  God  was  the  Goodly  Fere 
That  bade  us  his  brothers  be. 
I  ha'  seen  him  cow  a  thousand  men. 
I  ha'  seen  him  upon  the  tree. 

He  cried  no  cry  when  they  dravc  the  nails 
And  the  blood  gushed  hot  and  free, 
The  hounds  of  the  crimson  sky  gave  tongue 
But  never  a  cry  cried  he. 

I  ha*  seen  him  cow  a  thousand  men 

On  the  hills  o'  Galilee, 

They  whined  as  he  walked  out  calm  between, 

Wi'  his  eyes  like  the  gray  o'  the  sea. 

Like  the  sea  that  brooks  no  voyaging 
With  the  winds  unleashed  and  free, 
Like  the  sea  that  he  cowed  at  Gennesaret 
Wi'  twey  words  spoke'  suddenly. 

A  master  of  men  was  the  Goodly  Fere, 
A  mate  of  the  wind  and  sea, 
If  they  think  they  ha'  slain  our  Goodly  Fere 
They  are  fools  eternally. 


EZRA  POUND 


345 


I  ha*  seen  him  eat  o*  the  honey-comb  Tree  you  are, 

Sin*  they  nailed  him  to  the  tree.  Moss  you  are, 

You  are  violets  with  wind  above  them. 
A  child — so  high — you  are; 
A  G  l  R  L  And  all  this  is  folly  to  the  world. 

The  tree  has  entered  my  hands, 

The  sap  has  ascended  my  arms,  JN   A  STATION  OF  TnE   METRO 

The  tree  has  grown  in  my  breast 

Downward,  The  apparition  of  these  faces  m  the  crowd; 

The  branches  grow  out  of  me,  like  arms.        Petals  on  a  wet,  black  bough. 

DANCE    FIGURE 

(For  the  Marriage  tn  Cana  of  Galilee) 
Dark  eyed, 

0  woman  of  my  dreams, 
Ivory  sandaled, 

There  is  none  like  thec  among  the  dancers, 
None  with  swift  feet. 

1  have  not  found  thee  in  the  tents, 
In  the  broken  darkness. 

I  have  not  found  thcc  at  the  well-head 

Among  the  women  with  pitchers. 

Thmc  arms  are  as  a  young  sapling  under  the  bark; 

Thy  face  as  a  river  with  lights. 

White  as  an  almond  are  thy  shoulders; 
As  new  almonds  stripped  from  the  husk. 
They  guard  thee  not  with  eunuchs; 
Not  with  bars  of  copper. 

Gilt  turquoise  and  silver  are  in  the  place  of  thy  rest. 

A  brown  robe  with  threads  of  gold  woven  in  patterns  hast  thou  gathered  about  thee, 

O  Nathat-Ikanaie,  "Tree-at-the-nver." 

As  a  nllet  among  the  sedge  are  thy  hands  upon  me; 
Thy  fingers  a  frosted  stream. 

Thy  maidens  are  white  like  pebbles; 
Their  music  about  thee! 

There  is  none  like  thee  among  the  dancers; 
None  with  swift  feet. 

AfiPIA 

Be  in  me  as  the  eternal  moods 

of  the  bleak  wind,  and  not 
As  transient  things  are — 

gayety  of  flowers. 


346  EZRA  POUND 

Have  me  in  the  strong  loneliness 

of  sunless  clifls 
And  of  gray  waters. 

Let  the  gods  speak  softly  of  us 
In  days  hereafter, 

the  shadowy  flowers  of  Orcus 
Remember  thee. 


SILET 

When  I  behold  how  black,  immortal  ink 
Drips  from  my  deathless  pen — ah,  well-away! 
Why  should  we  stop  at  all  for  what  I  think? 
There  is  enough  in  what  I  chance  to  say. 

It  is  enough  that  we  once  came  together; 
What  is  the  use  of  setting  it  to  rime? 
When  it  is  autumn  do  we  get  spring  weather, 
Or  gather  may  of  harsh  northwmdish  time? 

It  is  enough  that  we  once  came  together; 
What  if  the  wind  have  turned  against  the  rain? 
It  is  enough  that  we  once  came  together; 
Time  has  seen  this,  and  will  not  turn  again. 

And  who  are  we,  who  know  that  last  intent, 
To  plague  tomorrow  with  a  testament! 


PORTRAIT    D    UNE 

Your  mind  and  you  arc  our  Sargasso  Sea, 

London  has  swept  about  you  this  score  years 

And  bright  ships  left  you  this  or  that  m  fee: 

Ideas,  old  gossip,  oddments  of  all  things, 

Strange  spars  of  knowledge  and  dimmed  wares  of  price. 

Great  minds  have  sought  you — lacking  someone  else. 

You  have  been  second  always.  Tragical? 

No.  You  preferred  it  to  the  usual  thing: 

One  dull  man,  dulling  and  uxorious, 

One  average  mind — with  one  thought  less,  each  year. 

Oh,  you  are  patient.  I  have  seen  you  sit 

Hours,  where  something  might  have  floated  up. 

And  now  you  pay  one.  Yes,  you  richly  pay. 

You  are  a  person  of  some  interest,  one  comes  to  you 

And  takes  strange  gam  away: 

Trophies  fished  up;  some  curious  suggestion; 

Fact  that  leads  nowhere;  and  a  talc  for  two, 

Pregnant  with  mandrakes,  or  with  something  else 

That  might  prove  useful  and  yet  never  proves, 

That  never  fits  a  corner  or  shows  use, 

1  Compare  the  poem  on  the  same  theme  on  page  429. 


EZRA  POUND 


347 


Or  finds  its  hour  upon  the  loom  of  days: 
The  tarnished,  gaudy,  wonderful  old  work; 
Idols,  and  ambergris  and  rare  inlays. 
These  are  your  riches,  your  great  store;  and  yet 
For  all  this  sea-hoard  of  deciduous  things, 
Strange  woods  half  sodden,  and  new  brighter  stuff: 
In  the  slow  float  of  differing  light  and  deep, 
Not  there  is  nothing'  In  the  whole  and  all, 
Nothing  that's  quite  your  own. 

Yet  this  is  you. 


THE    RETURN 

See,  they  return;  ah  sec  the  tentative 
Movements,  and  the  slow  feet, 
The  trouble  in  the  pace  and  the 

uncertain 
Wavering' 

See,  they  return,  one,  and  by  one, 
With  fear,  as  half-awakened; 
As  if  the  snow  should  hesitate 
And  murmur  in  the  wind, 

and  half  turn  back; 
These  were  the  "Wmg'd-with-Awe," 

Inviolable. 

Gods  of  the  winged  shoe' 
With  them  the  silver  hounds, 

sniffing  the  trace  of  air! 

Haie'  Haic' 

These  were  the  swift  to  harry; 
These  were  the  keen-scented; 
These  were  the  souls  of  blood. 

Slow  on  the  leash, 

pallid  the  leash-men! 

ENVOI 

Go,  dumb-born  book, 

Tell  her  that  sang  me  once  that  song  of 

Lawes: 

Hadst  thou  but  song 
As  thou  hast  subjects  known, 
Then  were  there  cause  in  thee  that  should 

condone 

Even  my  faults  that  heavy  upon  me  lie, 
And  build  her  glories  their  longevity. 


Tell  her  that  sheds 

Such  treasure  in  the  air, 

Recking  naught  else  but  that  her  graces  give 

Life  to  the  moment, 

I  would  bid  them  live 

As  roses  might,  in  magic  amber  laid, 

Red  overwrought  with  orange  and  all  made 

One  substance  and  one  color 

Braving  time. 

Tell  her  that  goes 

With  song  upon  her  lips 

But  sings  not  out  the  song,  nor  knows 

The  maker  of  it,  some  other  mouth, 

May  be  as  fair  as  hers, 

Might,  in  new  ages,  gam  her  worshipers, 

When  our  two  dusts  with  Waller's  shall  be 

laid, 

Sif lings  on  sif tings  in  oblivion, 
Till  change  hath  broken  down 
All  things  save  Beauty  alone. 

THE    REST 

O  helpless  few  in  my  country, 
O  remnant  enslaved' 

Artists  broken  against  her, 
Astray,  lost  in  the  villages, 
Mistrusted,  spoken-agamst, 

Lovers  of  beauty,  starved, 
Thwarted  with  systems, 
Helpless  against  the  control; 

You  who  cannot  wear  yourselves  out 

By  persisting  to  successes, 

You  who  can  only  speak, 

Who  cannot  steel  yourselves  into  reiteration; 


348 

You  of  the  finer  sense, 
Broken  against  false  knowledge, 
You  who  can  know  at  first  hand, 
Hated,  shut  in,  mistrusted: 


EZRA  POUND 


Take  thought: 

I  have  weathered  the  storm, 

I  have  beaten  out  my  exile. 


ITE 


Go,  my  songs,  seek  your  praise  from  the  young  and  from  the  intolerant, 
Move  among  the  lovers  of  perfection  alone. 
Seek  ever  to  stand  in  the  hard  Sophoclcan  light 
And  take  your  wounds  from  it  gladly. 


CANTO    I 

And  then  went  down  to  the  ship, 

Set  keel  to  breakers,  forth  on  the  godly  sea,  and 

We  set  up  mast  and  sail  on  that  swart  ship, 

Bore  sheep  aboard  her,  and  our  bodies  also 

Heavy  with  weeping,  and  winds  from  stcrnward 

Bore  us  out  onward  with  bellying  canvas, 

Circe's  this  craft,  the  trim-coifed  goddess. 

Then  sat  we  amidships,  wind  jamming  the  tiller, 

Thus  with  stretched  sail,  we  went  over  sea  till  day's  end. 

Sun  to  his  slumber,  shadows  o'er  all  the  ocean, 

Came  we  then  to  the  bounds  of  deepest  water, 

To  the  Kimmenan  lands,  and  peopled  cities 

Covered  with  closc-wcbbcd  mist,  unpierced  ever 

With  glitter  of  sun-ray 

Nor  with  stars  stretched,  nor  looking  back  from  heaven 

Swartest  night  stretched  over  wretched  men  there. 

The  ocean  flowing  backward,  came  we  then  to  the  place 

Aforesaid  by  Circe. 

Here  did  they  rites,  Perimedcs  and  Eurylochus, 

And  drawing  sword  from  my  hip 

I  dug  the  ell-square  pitkin; 

Poured  we  libations  unto  each  the  dead, 

First  mead  and  then  sweet  wine,  water  mixed  with  white  flour. 

Then  prayed  I  many  a  prayer  to  the  sickly  death's-heads; 

As  set  in  Ithaca,  sterile  bulls  of  the  best 

For  sacrifice,  heaping  the  pyre  with  goods, 

A  sheep  to  Tircsias  only,  black  and  a  bell-sheep. 

Dark  blood  flowed  in  the  fosse, 

Souls  out  of  Erebus,  cadaverous  dead,  of  brides 

Of  youths  and  of  the  old  who  had  borne  much; 

Souls  stained  with  recent  tears,  girls  tender, 

Men  many,  mauled  with  bronze  lance  heads, 

Battle  spoil,  bearing  yet  dreary  arms, 

These  many  crowded  about  me;  with  shouting, 

Pallor  upon  me,  cried  to  my  men  for  more  beasts; 

Slaughtered  the  herds,  sheep  slain  of  bronze; 


EZRA  POUND  349 

Poured  ointment,  cried  to  the  gods, 

To  Pluto  the  strong,  and  praised  Proserpine; 

Unsheathed  the  narrow  sword, 

I  sat  to  keep  off  the  impetuous  impotent  dead, 

Till  I  should  hear  Tiresias. 

But  first  Elpcnor  came,  our  friend  Elpenor, 

Unbuned,  cast  on  the  wide  earth, 

Limbs  that  we  left  in  the  house  of  Circe, 

Unwept,  unwrapped  in  scpulcher,  since  toils  urged  other. 

Pitiful  spirit.  And  I  cried  in  hurried  speech: 

"Elpenor,  how  art  thou  come  to  this  dark  coast"5 

"Cam'st  thou  afoot,  outstripping  seamen?" 

And  he  in  heavy  speech: 

"111  fate  and  abundant  wine.  I  slept  in  Circe's  ingle. 
"Going  down  the  long  ladder  unguarded, 
"I  fell  against  the  buttress, 

"Shattered  the  nape-nerve,  the  soul  sought  Avcrnus. 
"But  thou,  O  King,  I  bid  remember  me,  unwept,  unburied, 
"Heap  up  mine  arms,  be  tomb  by  sea-board,  and  inscribed: 
"'A  man  of  no  jonune  and  with  a  name  to  come' 
"And  set  my  oar  up,  that  I  swung  mid  fellows." 

* 

And  Anticlca  came,  whom  I  beat  off,  and  then  Tiresias  Theban, 
Holding  his  golden  wand,  knew  rne,  and  spoke  first: 
"A  second  time?  why?  man  of  ill  star, 
"Facing  the  sunless  dead  and  this  joyless  region? 
"Stand  from  the  fosse,  leave  me  my  bloody  bever 
"For  soothsay." 

And  I  stepped  back, 

And  he  strong  with  the  blood,  said  then:  "Odysseus 
"Shalt  return  through  spiteful  Neptune,  over  dark  seas, 
"Lose  all  companions."  And  then  Anticlea  came. 
Lie  quiet  Divus.  I  mean  that  is  Andreas  Divus, 
In  officma  Wccheli,  1538,  out  of  Homer. 
And  he  sailed,  by  Sirens  and  thence  outward  and  away 
And  unto  Circe. 

Vencrandam, 

In  the  Cretan's  phrase,  with  the  golden  crown,  Aphrodite, 
Cypn  mummenta  sortita  est,  mirthful,  oncalchi,  with  golden 
Girdles  and  breast  bands,  thou  with  dark  eyelids 
Bearing  the  golden  bough  of  Argicida. 


Louis  Untermeyer 


L)uis  UNTERMEYER  was  born  October  i,  1885,  in  New  York  City,  where  he  lived, 
except  for  brief  intervals,  until  1923.  His  schooling  was  'fitful  and  erratic;  he 
liked  to  boast  that  he  was  the  least  educated  writer  in  America.  He  attended  the 
De  Witt  Clinton  High  School,  but  his  failure  to  comprehend  the  essentials  of  geom- 


J50  LOUIS  UNTERMEYER 

etry  prevented  him  from  graduating.  In  youth  his  one  ambition  was  to  be  a  com- 
poser. At  sixteen  he  appeared  as  a  semi-professional  pianist;  at  seventeen  he  entered 
his  father's  jewelry  manufacturing  establishment.  For  nearly  twenty  years  he  com- 
muted to  Newark,  New  Jersey,  being  advanced  from  designer  to  factory  manager 
and  vice-president.  In  1923  he  retired  and,  after  two  years  of  study  abroad,  returned 
to  America  to  devote  himself  entirely  to  literature.  In  1928  he  achieved  a  lifelong 
desire,  acquiring  a  farm,  a  trout-stream,  and  half  a  mountain  of  sugar-maples  in 
the  Adirondacks.  There  he  indulges  himself  in  his  two  pet  vices:  cats  and  puns, 
and  his  guests  frequently  complain  of  both.  He  became  "poet  in  residence"  at  vari- 
ous universities.  His  lectures  brought  him  into  every  state  of  the  Union  except  South 
Dakota,  The  talks  ranged  through  the  arts  and  their  social  implications,  many  of 
his  seminars  presumed  to  teach  teachers  what  not  to  teach. 

It  is  difficult  for  the  present  compiler  to  consider  this  writer  as  severely  as  he 
deserves,  the  editor  not  having  attained  toward  the  poet  that  Olympian  detachment 
which  is  the  goal  of  criticism.  However,  it  is  evident  that  his  work  is  divided  into 
four  kinds-  his  poetry,  his  parodies,  his  translations,  and  his  prose.  His  initial  volume 
of  verse,  First  Love  (1911),  was  a  sequence  of  some  seventy  lyrics  in  which  the 
influences  of  Heine  and  Housman  were  not  only  obvious  but  crippling.  It  was  with 
Challenge  (1914)  that  the  author  first  declared  himself  with  any  sort  of  integrity. 
Although  the  ghost  of  Henley  haunts  many  of  these  pages,  poems  like  "Prayer" 
and  "Caliban  in  the  Coal  Mines"  show  "a  fresh  and  lyrical  sympathy  with  the 
modern  world.  .  .  .  His  vision"  (thus  The  Boston  Ttansctipt)  "is  a  social  vision, 
his  spirit  a  passionately  energized  command  of  the  forces  ot  justice."  Challenge  was 
succeeded  by  These  Times  (1917),  which  lacked  the  unity  of  its  predecessor.  The 
New  Adam  (1920)  is  somewhat  better;  "a  frank  expression  of  the  modern  poet's 
conception  of  love,  this  new  Adam,  caught  in  the  eternal  struggle  of  the  flesh,  is 
the  child  of  a  complex  and  analytical  age." 

Roast  Leviathan  (1923)  was  the  most  luxuriant  of  his  volumes.  The  American 
critics  found  it  too  exuberant,  but  the  English  reviewers  praised  "the  lavish  use  of 
interior  rhyme  and  assonance,  brilliant  as  an  Oriental  tapestry."  "On  every  subject 
he  treats,"  wrote  Edwin  Muir,  "he  gives  opulent  measure,  an  opulence  within  the 
reach  of  nobody  in  contemporary  verse  but  himself."  In  Burning  Bush  (1928)  the 
key  is  quieter,  the  tone  surer.  Food  and  Diin\  (1932)  is  a  further  progress;  many 
of  the  poems  (notably  "Food  and  Drink"  and  "Last  Words  Before  Winter")  experi- 
ment in  the  masking  of  serious,  even  solemn,  emotion  in  a  light  tone  of  voice. 

Four  volumes  of  his  parodies  were  combined  in  Collected  Parodies  (1926),  which 
the  author,  with  great  self-restraint,  refrained  from  calling  "Parodies  Regained."  His 
interests  in  German  backgrounds  and  literature  were  manifested  in  Poems  of  H cm- 
rich  Heine  (1917);  a  translation  of  Ernst  Toller's  Masse  Mensch,  produced  by  the 
Theatre  Guild  in  1923;  and  Blue  Rhine — Blac\  Forest  (1930),  an  informal  guide 
and  day-book.  His  translations  from  Heine  were  revised  and  amplified  to  form  the 
second  volume  of  an  analytical  biography,  Heinrich  Heine:  Paradox  and  Poet 

(i937)- 

Beginning  with  an  adaptation  of  Gottfried  Keller's  Swiss  stories  (published  under 
the  title  The  Fat  of* the  Cat)  the  author  alternately  wrote  volumes  of  prose  and 
poetry.  The  best  of  his  fiction,  he  insists,  is  Moses  (1928),  miscalled  a  novel.  Ac- 
tually the  work  is  a  combination  of  historical  reconstruction  and  poetic  fantasia. 


LOUIS  UNTERMEYER  #/ 

Other  fictional  work  included  The  Donkey  of  God  (1932),  written  for  a  young 
audience,  which  won  the  Italian  Emt  Award  in  1934  for  the  best  recent  book  on 
Italy  written  in  any  language  by  a  non-Italian,  and  The  Last  Pit  ate  (1934),  m 
which  the  author  presumed  to  do  for  Gilbert  and  Sullivan  what  the  Lambs  had 
done  for  Shakespeare. 

A  book  of  essays,  The  New  Era  in  American  Poetty  (1919),  was  amplified  and 
shaped  into  a  more  balanced  set  of  twenty  subdivided  chapters  as  Amcncan  Poetry 
Since  7900  (1923).  The  critical  anthologies  Modern  Amencan  Poctiy  and  Modern 
Bntish  Poetty  were  revised  and  enlarged  several  times  since  their  original  publica- 
tion in  1919  and  1920,  and  used  as  textbooks  in  the  universities.  A  companion  vol- 
ume, Amencan  Poetty  fiom  the  Beginning  to  Whitman  (i93i)>  attempted  a  com- 
prehensive and  drastic  reappraisal  of  native  poetry  from  1620  to  1880. 

Besides  these  critical  compilations  the  editor  prepared  several  anthologies  with  a 
minimum  of  prefatory  or  interpretive  matter:  The  Boot^  of  Living  Vctse  (1952), 
the  widest  in  scope,  ranging  from  the  thirteenth  century  to  the  twentieth;  Yesterday 
and  Today  (1927),  a  comparative  collection  of  the  present  and  the  immediate  past; 
This  Singing  Wofld  (1923),  a  selection  of  modern  verse  for  a  not  too  elderly  audi- 
ence; This  Singing  Wot  Id  jot  Younger  Readers  (1926);  Rainbow  in  the  S^y  (1935); 
and  Stars  to  Steet  By  (1941).  These  volumes  were  widely  adopted  in  high  schools 
and  colleges,  as  was  The  Foims  of  Poetry  (1926),  a  "pocket  dictionary  of  verse." 

New  Songs  for  New  Voices  (1928),  a  collaboration  with  David  and  Clara 
Mannes,  wedded  modern  music  to  modern  poetry  and  gave  the  editor  the  oppor- 
tunity to  make  his  first  (and  List)  public  appearance  as  composer.  Poetry  Its 
Appieaation  and  Enjoyment  (1934),  written  with  Carter  Davidson,  is  a  cross  be- 
tween a  treatise  and  a  textbook.  Selected  Poems  and  Parodies  (1935),  assembles  the 
best  of  Untermcyer's  serious  poems.  This  volume,  said  William  Rose  Ik-net  hand 
somely,  "entitles  him  to  occupy  the  place  of  a  Heine  in  America."  I  Its  standing  as 
critic  was  enhanced  by  Play  m  Poetfy  (1937),  a  set  of  commentaries  delivered  as 
lectures  on  the  Henry  Ward  Beechcr  Foundation  at  Amhcrst.  From  Anothn  Wot  Id 
(1939)  is  not  so  much  an  autobiography  as  a  set  of  autobiographical  reminiscences 
which  give  a  direct  picture  of  a  period 

Before  his  fiftieth  year  Untermeyer  had  written  and  compiled  thirty  volumes  of 
prose  and  verse;  had  served  as  associate  editor  of  such  magazines  as  The  Liberator 
and  The  Seven  Arts;  had  been  Poetry  Editor  of  The  Amencan  Meicuiy  from  1934 
to  1937;  and  had  written  the  articles  on  modern  Amcncan  poetry  for  the  Encyclo- 
paedia Bntannica.  A  friend  of  young  authors,  he  spends  part  ol  his  summers  with 
Robert  Frost  conducting  courses  at  the  Bread  Loaf  Writers'  Conference  in  Vermont. 

PRAYER  From  sleek  contentment  keep  me  free, 

God,  though  this  life  is  but  a  wraith,  And  fil1  mc  w'th  A  bu°yant  doubt' 

Although  we  know  not  what  we  use,  ~ 

Although  we  grope  with  little  faith,  °%?  ™l  ^  to  v!slon?  8>rt   ,     .. 

Give  me  the  heart  to  fight-and  lose.  _  W.lth  bca7>  and  wltj  w?n       lrt~ 

0  But  let  me  always  see  the  dirt, 

Ever  insurgent  let  me  be,  An^  all  that  spawn  and  die  in  it. 

Make  me  more  daring  than  devout; 


352  LOUIS'UNTERMEYER 

Open  my  ears  to  music;  let  From  compromise  and  things  half-done, 

Me  thrill  with  Spring's  first  flutes  and         Keep  me,  with  stern  and  stubborn  pride, 
drums —  And  when,  at  last,  the  fight  is  won, 

But  never  let  me  dare  forget  God,  keep  me  still  unsatisfied. 

The  bitter  ballads  of  the  slums. 


CALIBAN  IN  THE  COAL  MINES  God,  if  You  had  but  the  moon 

God,  we  don't  like  to  complain;  r  StucJ^  ir?  1Your  cfaP  for  a  lamP> 

We  know  that  the  mine  is  no  lark.  Evcn  You  d  '"*  °f  Jl  soon> , 

But-there's  the  pools  from  the  rain;  Down  m  the  dark  and  the  damP- 

But — there's  the  cold  and  the  dark.  1,11- 

Nothing  but  blackness  above 

God,  You  don't  know  what  it  is—  And  nothing  that  moves  but  the  cars. 

You,  in  Your  well-lighted  sky—  God,  if  You  wish  for  our  love, 

Watching  the  meteors  whizz;  Fling  us  a  handful  of  stars! 

Warm,  with  a  sun  always  by. 


THE    DARK    CHAMBER 

The  brain  forgets,  but  the  blood  will  remember. 

There,  when  the  play  of  sense  is  over, 
The  last,  low  spark  in  the  darkest  chamber 

Will  hold  all  there  is  of  love  and  lover. 

The  war  of  words,  the  life-long  quarrel 
Of  self  against  self  will  resolve  into  nothing; 

Less  than  the  chain  of  berry-red  coral 

Crying  against  the  dead  black  of  her  clothing. 

What  has  the  brain  that  it  hopes  to  last  longer? 

The  blood  will  take  from  forgotten  violence, 
The  groping,  the  break  of  her  voice  in  anger. 

There  will  be  left  only  color  and  silence. 

These  will  remain,  these  will  go  searching 
Your  veins  for  life  when  the  flame  of  life  smolders: 

The  night  that  you  two  saw  the  mountains  marching 
Up  against  dawn  with  the  stars  on  their  shoulders — 

The  jetting  poplars'  arrested  fountains 
As  you  drew  her  under  them,  easing  her  pain — 

The  notes,  not  the  words,  of  a  halt-finished  sentence — 
The  music,  the  silence.  .  .  .  These  will  remain. 


SCARCELY    SPRING 

Nothing  is  real.  The  world  has  lost  its  edges; 
The  sky,  uncovered,  is  the  one  thing  clear. 
The  earth  is  little  more  than  atmosphere 
Where  yesterday  were  rocks  and  naked  ridges. 
Nothing  is  fixed.  Tentative  rain  dislodges 


LOUIS  VNTERMEYER 


353 


Green  upon  green  or  lifts  a  coral  spear 
That  breaks  in  blossom,  and  the  hills  appear 
Too  frail  to  be  the  stony  truit  of  ages. 

Nothing  will  keep.  Even  the  heavens  waver. 
Young  larks,  whose  first  thought  is  to  cry  aloud, 
Have  spent  their  bubble  notes.  And  here  or  there 
A  few  slow-hearted  boys  and  girls  discover 
A  moon  as  unsubstantial  as  a  cloud 
Painted  by  air  on  washed  and  watery  air. 

LONG    FEUD 

Where,  without  bloodshed,  can  there  be  Only  to  lie  in  wait,  although 

A  more  relentless  enmity  lie  builds  above  and  digs  below 

Than  the  long  feud  fought  silently  Where  never  a  root  would  dare  to  go. 

Between  man  and  the  growing  grass.  His  are  the  triumphs  till  the  day 

Man's  the  aggressor,  for  he  has  There's  no  more  grass  to  cut  away 

Weapons  to  humble  and  harass  And,  weary  of  labor,  weary  of  play, 

The  impudent  spears  that  charge  upon  I  laving  exhausted  every  whim, 

His  sacred  privacy  ot  lawn.  He  stretches  out  each  conquering  limb. 

He  mows  them  down,  and  they  are  gone  And  then  the  small  grass  covers  him. 

UNREASONING     HEART 

Here  in  a  world  whose  heaven  is  powder-white, 

Where,  cased  in  glass,  the  branches  Ixrar  a  weight 

Too  light  for  leaves  and  far  too  cold  for  flowers, 

Nothing  disturbs  these  alabaster  floors. 

The  black  stream  does  not  move;  it  is  a  vein 

Of  onyx  cropping  out,  a  metal  vine 

Twisted  and  thrown  away.  There  is  no  sound. 

Blankets  of  snow,  curtains  of  snow-ilake  sand 

Bury  the  footsteps  of  the  one  man  here. 

Here,  where  the  world  has  died,  away  from  her, 

Here  for  the  fevered  mind  too  long  harassed 

Is  wintry  silence,  cooling  space  and  rest. 

Waves  of  a  soundless  music  rise  to  lift 

The  unbuncd  thing  that  lived  and  even  laughed. 

And,  as  a  broken  life  can  be  made  whole 

By  looking  at  the  slant  of  one  long  hill, 

In  this  eternity  of  peace,  the  heart 

Forgetting  all  forgets  that  it  can  hurt. 

And  yet,  does  even  the  weariest  heart  want  peace? 
Back  to  the  fever,  the  intemperate  pace, 
Back  to  the  ruthless  word,  the  headlong  deed 
(Fearing  that  passion  stilled  is  passion  dead) 
The  worn  heart  hungers.  Forever  unappeased, 


354 


LOUIS  UNTERMEYER 


Forever  ^elf-persuaded,  self-opposed, 
It  turns  away  from  each  escape,  to  pine 
For  the  old  wars  and  victories  of  pain; 
Embracing  all  that  reason  hopes  to  leave, 
With  no  less  hurt  and  even  greater  love. 
As  though  to  cry,  "Here  I  belong — I  must! 
Here  is  the  place  where  I  have  suffered  most." 


FOOD    AND    DRINK 

Why  has  our  poetry  eschewed 
The  rapture  and  response  of  food? 
What  hymns  are  sung,  what  prayers  are  said 
For  home-made  miracles  of  bread ? 
Since  what  we  love  has  always  found 
Expression  in  enduring  sound, 
Music  and  verse  should  be  competing 
To  match  the  transient  joy  of  eating. 
There  should  be  present  in  our  songs 
As  many  tastes  as  there  are  tongues; 
There  should  be  humbly  celebrated 
One  passion  that  is  never  sated. 

Let  us  begin  it  with  the  first 

Distinction  of  a  conscious  thirst 

When  the  collusion  ot  the  vine 

Uplifted  water  into  wine. 

Let  us  give  thanks  before  we  turn 

To  other  things  of  less  concern 

For  all  the  poetry  of  the  table: 

Clams  that  parade  their  silent  fable; 

Lobsters  that  have  a  rock  for  stable; 

Red-faced  tomatoes  ample  as 

A  countryman's  full-bosomed  lass; 

Plain-spoken  turnips;  honest  beets; 

The  carnal  gusto  oi  red  meats; 

The  wood-fire  pungence  of  smoked  ham; 

The  insipidity  of  lamb; 

Young  veal  that's  smooth  as  natural  silk; 

The  lavish  mothcrlmess  of  milk; 

Sweet-sour  carp,  beloved  by  Jews; 

Pot  luck  simplicity  of  stews; 

Crabs,  juiciest  of  Nature's  jokes; 

The  deep  reserve  of  artichokes; 

Mushrooms,  whose  taste  is  texture,  loath 

To  tell  of  their  mysterious  growth; 

Quick,  mealy  comfort  glowing  in 

A  baked  potato's  crackled  skin; 

The  morning  promise,  hailed  by  man, 

Of  bacon  crisping  in  the  pan; 

The  sage  compound  of  Hasenpfeffer 

With  dumplings  born  of  flour  and  zephyr; 


Anchovies  glorified  in  oil; 

Spinach  whose  spirit  is  the  soil; 

Corn  that  is  roasted  in  the  ash; 

The  eternal  compromise  of  hash; 

The  Slow-gold  nectar  maples  yield; 

Pale  honey  tasting  of  the  field 

Where  every  clover  is  Hymettus; 

The  cooling  sanity  of  lettuce, 

And  every  other  herbal  green 

Whose  touch  is  calm,  whose  heart  is  clean; 

Succulent  bean-sprouts;  bamboo-shoots; 

The  sapid  catalogue  of  fruits: 

Plebeian  apple;  caustic  grape; 

Quinces  that  have  no  gift  for  shape; 

Dull  plums  that  mind  their  own  affairs; 

Incurably  bland  and  blunted  pears; 

Fantastic  passion-fruit;  frank  lemons 

With  acid  tongues  as  sharp  as  women's; 

Exotic  loquats;  sly  persimmons; 

White  currants;  amber-fleshed  sultanas 

(Miniature  and  sweetened  mannas); 

Expansive  peaches;  suave  bananas; 

Oranges  ripening  in  crates; 

Tight-bodied  figs;  sun-wrinkled  dates; 

Melons  that  have  their  own  vagaries; 

The  bright  astnngency  of  berries; 

Pepper,  whose  satire  stings  and  cuts; 

The  pointless  persiflage  of  nuts; 

Sauces  of  complex  mysteries; 

Proverbial  parsnips;  muscular  cheese; 

Innocent  eggs  that  scorn  disguises; 

Languid  molasses;  burning  spices 

In  kitchen-oracles  to  Isis; 

Thick  sauerkraut's  fat-bellied  savor; 

Anything  with  a  chocolate  flavor; 

Deep  generosity  of  pies; 

Rich  puddings  bursting  to  surprise; 

The  smug  monotony  of  rice; 

Raisins  that  doze  in  cinnamon  buns; 

Kentucky  biscuits,  Scottish  scones; 

Venison  steaks  that  smack  of  cloisters; 

Goose-liver  for  the  soul  that  roisters; 


LOUIS  UNTERMEYER 

Reticent  prawn;  Lucullan  oysters; 
Sausages,  fragrant  link  on  link.  .  .  . 

The  vast  ambrosias  of  drink: 
Tea,  that  domestic  mandarin; 
Bucolic  cider;  loose-lipped  gin; 
Coffee,  extract  of  common  sense, 
Purgative  of  the  night's  pretense; 
Cocoa's  prim  nursery;  the  male 
Companionship  of  crusty  ale; 
Cognac  as  oily  as  a  ferret; 
The  faintly  iron  thrust  of  claret; 
Episcopal  port,  aged  and  austere; 
Rebellious  must  of  grape;  the  clear, 
Bluff  confraternity  of  beer — 

All  these  are  good,  all  are  a  part 
Of  man's  imperative  needs  that  start 
Not  in  the  palate  but  the  heart. 
Thus  fat  and  fiber,  root  and  leaf, 
Become  quick  fuel  and  slow  grief. 
These,  through  the  chemistry  of  blood, 
Sustain  his  hungering  manhood, 
Fulfilling  passion,  ripening  pain; 
Steel  in  his  bone,  fire  at  his  brain. 
So,  until  man  abjures  the  meats 
Terrestrial,  and  impermanent  sweets, 
Growing  beyond  the  thing  he  eats, 
Let  us  be  thankful  for  the  good 
Beauty  and  benison  of  food; 
Let  us  join  chiming  vowel  with  vowel 
To  rhapsodize  fish,  flesh  and  fowl; 
And  let  us  thank  God  in  our  songs 
There  are  as  many  tastes  as  tongues! 


LAST  WORDS  BEFORE  WINTER 

All  my  sheep 

Gather  m  a  heap, 

For  I  spy  the  woolly,  woolly  wolf. 


355 

Farewell,  my  flocks, 
Farewell.  But  let  me  find  you 
Safe  in  your  stall  and  bam  and  box 
With  your  winter's  tale  behind  you. 

Farewell,  my  cattle  (both). 

I  leave  you  just  as  loath 

As  though  you  were  a  hundred  head, 

Instead 

Of  two-and-a-half. 

(Two  cows  and  a  calf.) 

Farewell,  my  apple-trees; 

You  have  learned  what  it  is  to  freeze, 

With  the  drift  on  your  knees. 

But,  oh,  beware 

Those  first  kind  days,  the  snare 

Of  the  too  promising  air, 

The  cost 

Of  over-sudden  trust — 

And  then  the  killing  frost/ 

Farewell,  beloved  acres; 

I  leave  you  in  the  hands 

Of  one  whose  earliest  enterprise  was  lands: 

Your  Maker's. 

Yard,  hutch,  and  house,  farewell. 

It  is  for  you  to  tell 

How  you  withstood  the  great  white  wolf, 

whose  fell 

Is  softer  than  a  lambkin's,  but  whose  breath 
Is  death. 

Farewell,  hoof,  claw,  and  wing, 
Finned,  furred,  and  feathered  thing, 
Till  Spring — 

All  my  sheep 

Gather  in  a  heap, 

For  I  spy  the  woolly,  woolly  wolf. 


AGAINST    TIME 


The  event  stands  clear  of  history. 

Originality 

Is  not  in  ranks  of  trees,  but  in  this  tree; 

And  every  fruit  is  the  first  fruit 

Shapely  and  absolute. 


Events  are  individual  as  pain. 


LOUIS  UNTERMEYER 


This  day,  this  trouble-fingering  rain 

His  never  been. 

Beauty  comes  clean 

In  the  cock's  rusty  vowels  or  in 

Sky-searching  towers  that  lift 

Themselves  light  as  a  swift. 

Time's  a  machine 

That  clocks  the  outworn,  the  untrue. 

But  we  have  seen 

What  no  clock  has  recorded;  we  have  seen 

Time  counted  and  completed;  we  have  seen 

Newness  begetting  newness,  and  the  old 

Refuse  to  die,  take  hold, 

Assume  free  shape,  deny  the  habitual  mould; 

While  earth,  love,  substance  grew 

As  it  was  made  to  do. 

And  the  event  stood  new. 

MOTHER    GOOSE    UP-TO-DATE 
JOHN   MASEFIELD 

Relates  the  Story  of  Tom,  Tom,  the  Pipers  Son 

Thomas,  the  vagrant  piper's  son, 
Was  fourteen  when  he  took  to  fun; 
He  was  the  sixth  ot  a  bewildenn' 
Family  of  eleven  children. 
Mary,  the  first  of  all  the  lot? 
Was  married  to  a  drunken  sot; 
And  Clement,  second  on  the  list, 
Fell  off  the  roof  and  was  never  missed. 
Susan  and  little  Goldilocks 
Were  carried  off  by  the  chicken-pox; 
And  Franky  went — though  I  can't  recall 
Whatever  happened  to  him  at  all. 
Thomas  was  next — and  he's  still  alive, 
The  only  one  of  them  all  to  thrive. 
The  rest  just  petered  out  somehow — 
At  least,  nobody  hears  of  them  now. 

Now  Tom,  as  I  said  when  I'd  begun, 
Was  fourteen  when  he  took  to  fun. 
Wine  was  the  stuff  he  loved  to  swim  in; 
He  lied,  and  fought,  and  went  with  women. 
He  scattered  oaths,  as  one  flings  bounties, 
The  dirtiest  dog  in  seven  counties. 

One  morning  when  the  sun  was  high 
And  larks  were  cleaving  the  blue  sky, 
Singing  as  though  their  hearts  would  break 
With  April's  keen  and  happy  ache, 
Thomas  went  walking,  rather  warm, 


LOUIS  UNTERMEYER  557 

Beside  old  Gaffer  Hubbard's  farm. 

He  saw  that  wintry  days  were  over 

And  bees  were  out  among  the  clover. 

Earth  stretched  its  legs  out  in  the  sun; 

Now  that  the  spring  was  well  begun, 

Heaven  itself  grew  bland  and  fat. 

So  Thomas  loafed  a  while  and  spat, 

And  thought  about  his  many  follies — 

Yonder  the  gang  was  tipping  trollies. 

The  sight  made  Tom's  red  blood  run  quicker 

Than  whiskey,  beer  or  any  liquor. 

"By  cnpes,"  he  said,  "that's  what  I  need; 

'Twill  make  a  man  of  me  indeed. 

Why  should  I  be  a  roaring  slob 

When  there's  Salvation  in  a  job'" 

He  started  up — when  lo,  behind  him, 

As  though  it  sought  to  maim  and  blind  him, 

A  savage  pig  sprang  straight  against  him. 

At  first  Tom  kicked  and  fought  and  fenced  him, 

And  then  he  fell.  But  as  they  rolled 

Tom  took  a  tight  and  desperate  hold 

And  thought  the  bloody  fight  was  over. 

"Here  is  one  pig  that's  not  in  clover — 

Tonight  I'll  have  you  in  my  cupboard'" 

Who  should  come  up  but  Gaffer  Hubbard. 

"Leggo  that  pig." 

"What  for?"  says  Tom. 
"It's  mine,  you  lousy,  thieving  bum." 
"It  ain't." 

"It  is." 

"Clear  out!" 

"We'll  see." 
"I'll  fix  'ee!" 

"Better  let  me  be." 

With  that  the  farmer  turned  again 

And  called  out  half  a  dozen  men. 

Up  they  came  running.  "Here,"  said  he, 

"Here  is  a  pig  belongs  to  me — 

But  ye  can  have  it  all  for  eating 

If  ye  will  give  this  tramp  a  beating." 

"Hurroo'"  they  shouted  in  high  feather, 

And  jumped  on  Thomas  all  together. 

So  the  pig  was  eat,  and  Tom  was  beat; 

And  Tom  went  roaring  down  the  street! 


WALTER   DE    LA    MARE 

Tells  the  Listener  About  ]ac}^  and  Jill 

Up  to  the  top  of  the  haunted  turf 
They  climbed  on  the  moonlit  hill. 


LOUIS  UNTERMEYER 


Not  a  leaf  rustled  in  the  underbrush; 
The  listening  air  was  still, 

And  only  the  noise  of  the  water  pail 

As  it  struck  on  a  jutting  stone, 
Clattered  and  jarred  against  the  silence 

As  the  two  trod  on  alone. 

Up  to  the  moonlit  peak  they  went; 

And,  though  not  a  word  would  they  say, 
Their  thoughts  outnumbered  a  poet's  love-songs 

In  the  first  green  weeks  of  May. 

The  stealthy  shadows  crept  closer; 

They  clutched  at  the  hem  of  Jill's  gown; 
And  there  at  the  very  top  she  stumbled, 

And  Jack  came  shuddering  down. 

Their  cries  rang  out  against  the  stillness, 

Pitiful  and  high  and  thin. 
And  the  echoes  edged  back  still  further 

As  the  silence  gathered  them  in. 


EDNA   ST.  VINCENT   MILLAY 

Exhorts  Little  Boy  Blue 

From  that  last  acre  on  oblivion's  heap 
Come,  lad  tricked  out  in  bold  and  trumpery  blue; 
Come,  blow  your  idle  horn,  and  send  the  few 
Notes  with  no  name  against  the  night.  Here  sheep 
Trample  the  fetid  meadow;  here  cows  creep, 
Raising  their  eyes  wherever  one  or  two 
Crushing  the  corn,  pause  to  admire  the  view; 
Come,  doubtful  dreamer,  spurn  ignoble  sleep. 

I  tell  you  this,  Boy  Blue,  lift  up  your  horn 
Against  the  world's  deliberate  apathy, 
Or  what  we  held  so  dear  will  be  the  scorn 
Of  casual  rats  and  roaches;  life  will  be 
A  town  not  worth  the  taking,  a  spent  call. 
Grimly  I  tell  you  this.  And  this  is  all. 


ARCHIBALD    MAC  LEISH 

Suspends  the  Five  Little  Pigs 

.  ' .  So 

Went  this  little  pig  from  the  mainland  to  the  market: 
Autumn  it  was:  and  a  salt  wind  flowing: 

And  the  rotten  gram  left  on  the  stalk  for  no  harvest: 

And  the  going  rough:  the  bread  wormy°  the  smoke  turned  sour: 

And  the  towns  a  jungle  of  dogs  let  loose  in  a  rubble  of  garbage: 


LOUIS   UNTERMEYER  559 

And  this  little  pig  stayed  home:  and  this  one  devoured 
Roast  upon  roast  of  beef  and  drank  the  milk  of  the  aloe: 
Rinsing  his  mouth  with  the  melons:  drowsing 

In  a  grove  of  clean  sun  interwoven  with  swallows: 

And  the  earth  kind  to  the  bone  with  rain's  fragrance: 

And  the  moon  stroking  the  breast  and  the  hand  grown  callous: 

And  this  little  pig  had  none — not  for  love  nor  the  paying — 

Dust  in  his  corded  throat:  and  the  knife  above  it: 

And  the  quick  slit  under  the  jaw:  and  he  took  it  bravely: 

And  this  little  pig — the  littlest  and  the  loveliest — 
Gallic  m  breed  to  the  impudent  turn  of  his  tail 
Cried,  "Oui!  GUI!  Oui!"  all  the  way  home  .  .  . 

.  .  .  and  the  hovering 
Gale  from  the  .  .  . 

north  .  .  . 

the  sun-bright  names  .  .  . 
Gone  from  the  page  .  .  . 

and  the  blazing  ... 

lives 
Hazy  .  .  . 

the  days  passing  .  .  . 

the  faces 
Blurred  or  erased  .  .  . 

and  the  five  .  .  . 

the  hunted  five 
A  word  .  .  . 

a  child's  rhyme  .  .  . 

in  that  country.  .  .  . 

EDGAR  A.  GUEST 

Syndicates  the  Old   Woman   Who  Lived  in  a  Shoe 

It  takes  a  heap  o'  children  to  make  a  home  that's  true, 

And  home  can  be  a  palace  grand,  or  just  a  plain,  old  shoe; 

But  if  it  has  a  mother  dear,  and  a  good  old  dad  or  two, 

Why,  that's  the  sort  of  good  old  home  for  good  old  me  and  you. 

Of  all  the  institutions  this  side  the  Vale  o'  Rest 

Howe'er  it  be,  it  seems  to  me  a  good  old  mother's  best; 

And  fathers  are  a  blessing,  too,  they  give  the  place  a  tone; 

In  fact  each  child  should  try  and  have  some  parents  of  its  own. 

The  food  can  be  quite  simple;  just  a  sop  of  milk  and  bread 
Are  plenty  when  the  kiddies  know  it's  time  to  go  to  bed. 
And  every  little  sleepy-head  will  dream  about  the  day 
When  he  can  go  to  work  because  a  Man's  Work  is  his  Play. 

And,  oh,  how  sweet  his  life  will  seem,  with  nought  to  make  him  cross; 
And  he  will  never  watch  the  clock  and  always  mind  the  boss. 
And  when  he  thinks  (as  may  occur),  this  thought  will  please  him  best: 
That  ninety  million  think  the  same — including  Eddie  Guest. 


360  fOHN  GOULD  FLETCHER 

John  Gould  Fletcher 

JOHN  GOULD  FLETCHER  was  born  at  Little  Rock,  Arkansas,  January  3,  1886.  He  was 
educated  at  Harvard  (1903-7)  and,  after  spending  several  years  in  Massachusetts, 
moved  to  England,  where  he  lived  for  fifteen  years.  In  1933  he  returned  to  America, 
to  the  family  home  in  Little  Rock. 

In  1913  Fletcher  published  five  books  of  poems  which  he  has  referred  to  as  "his 
literary  wild  oats,"  five  small  collections  of  experimental  and  faintly  interesting  verse. 
In  1914,  shortly  after  the  publication  of  his  Fire  and  Wine  (one  of  the  early  quintet), 
Fletcher  joined  the  Imagists.  With  H.  D.  and  Amy  Lowell  he  became  one  of  the 
leaders  of  this  interesting  movement  and  his  contributions  were  among  the  outstand- 
ing features  of  the  three  anthologies  which  furnish  so  illuminating  a  record  of  the 
esthetics  of  the  period.  Coincident  with  the  first  appearance  of  Some  Imagist  Poets, 
Fletcher  discarded  his  previous  style  and  emerged  as  a  decidedly  less  conservative  and 
far  more  arresting  poet  with  Irradiations — Sand  and  Spray  (1915).  This  volume  is 
full  of  an  extraordinary  fancy;  imagination  riots  through  it,  though  it  is  sometimes  a 
bloodless  and  bodiless  imagination.  It  is  crowded — even  overcrowded — with  shifting 
subtleties;  a  brilliant,  haphazard  series  of  improvisations. 

In  the  following  book,  Goblins  and  Pagodas  (1916),  Fletcher  carries  his  unrelated 
harmonies  much  further.  Color  dominates  him;  the  ambitious  set  of  eleven  "color 
symphonies"  is  an  elaborate  design  in  which  tone  and  thought  are  summoned  by 
color-associations,  sometimes  closely  related,  sometimes  far-fetched.  "It  contains," 
says  Conrad  Aiken  in  his  appreciative  chapter  on  Fletcher  in  Scepticisms,  "little  of 
the  emotion  which  relates  to  the  daily  life  of  men  and  women.  ...  It  is  a  sort  of 
absolute  poetry,  a  poetry  of  detached  waver  and  brilliance,  a  beautiful  flowering  of 
language  alone — a  parthenogenesis,  as  if  language  were  fertilized  by  itself  rather 
than  by  thought  or  feeling.  Remove  the  magic  of  phrase  and  sound  and  there  is 
nothing  left:  no  thread  of  continuity,  no  thought,  no  story,  no  emotion.  But  the 
magic  of  phrase  and  sound  is  powerful,  and  it  takes  one  into  a  fantastic  world." 

In  1917  Fletcher  again  began  to  change  in  spirit  as  well  as  style.  Emotion  de- 
clared itself  with  surprising  candor.  After  having  appeared  in  the  three  Imagist 
anthologies,  he  sought  for  depths  rather  than  surfaces;  his  "Lincoln"  accomplished 
a  closer  relation  to  humanity.  A  moving  mysticism  speaks  from  The  Tree  of  Life 
(1918);  the  more  obviously  native  Granite  and  Breakers  (1921)  and  Parables  (1925) 
contain  a  prophetic  note  new  to  this  poet.  Though  less  arresting  than  the  ones  by 
which  he  is  best  known,  the  later  poems  reach  depths  which  the  preceding  verses 
never  attained.  Although  the  unconscious  often  dictates  Fletcher's  fantasies,  a  calm 
music  dominates  them.  A  grave,  subdued  lyricism  m6ves  through  The  Blacl^  Roc\ 
(1928)  and  Branches  of  Adam  (1926),  in  which  the  philosophy  is  akin  to  Nietzsche's 
while  the  motto  might  well  be  Blake's  "How  is  it  we  have  walked  through  fire,  and 
yet  are  not  consumed ?"  Never  a  popular  poet,  Fletcher  gains — and  suffers — from 
his  original  and  fluctuating  power.  He  is  the  poet  held  in  a  state  of  flux. 

XXIV  Elegies  (1935)  is  a  work  which  took  Fletcher  twenty  years  to  write;  the 
poems,  one  for  each  hour  pf  the  twenty-four,  having  been  composed  between  1914 
and  1934.  The  dignified  tone  and  depth  of  feeling  are  communicated  throughout. 


JOHN  GOULD   FLETCHER  361 

There  are,  as  there  would  be  in  a  work  of  this  character,  many  tedious  passages,  and 
an  American  poet  in  the  twentieth  century  might  have  spared  himself  an  elegy  on 
"Tristan  in  Brittany"  and  an  "Elegy  on  Tintern  Abbey."  But  he  atones  for  these 
lapses  in  the  "Elegy  on  the  Building  of  the  Washington  Bridge,"  "Elegy  on  the 
Jewish  People,"  "Elegy  in  a  Civil  War  Cemetery,"  and  by  the  general  accent,  an 
inflection  which  uses  the  grand  manner  but  restrains  the  rhetoric.  South  Star  (1941) 
combines  experience  and  legend;  much  of  it  is  regional  in  theme. 

Besides  his  quality  as  poet  Fletcher  ranks  high  as  a  translator  from  the  French, 
having  made  the